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Photo: Motti Kimchi
Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz. There will be no escape from a police investigation
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Nahum Barnea

Israel’s entire legal system has been polluted

Op-ed: There is no law and no justice when a judge lets the state representative guide her on the number of days she should keep suspects in custody. If the public reaches the conclusion that it’s all fixed, we will no longer have a legal system, because without faith there is no law.

The blow brought upon the legal system Sunday evening is bigger, and more painful, than the identity of the judge who will determine the fate of the detainees in Case 4000. It isn’t just one case that was polluted—it’s the entire system.

 

 

There is no law, there is no justice in a system where a judge lets the state representative guide her on the number of days she should keep suspects in custody. There is no law, there is no justice in a system where a judge exchanges messages with a representative of one side of a legal proceeding, receives classified information from him and agrees to act surprised upon receiving the information in court.

 

Judge Poznanski-Katz (L) and attorney Shacham-Shavit. Scored an own goal  (Photo: Motti Kimchi, Yariv Katz)
Judge Poznanski-Katz (L) and attorney Shacham-Shavit. Scored an own goal (Photo: Motti Kimchi, Yariv Katz)

 

On Sunday evening, after the correspondence was revealed by Channel 10 News, Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz and her WhatsApp partner, attorney Eran Shacham-Shavit, were both removed from Case 4000. Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Justice Ministry Ayelet Shaked announced they would file a complaint with the Ombudsman for Complaints against Judges. The judge was placed on leave until a clarification of the matter. The state attorney put Shacham-Shavit on leave too. Eventually, there will be no escape from a police investigation.

 

The system should be given credit for its quick response. On the other hand, one can’t help but wonder who are these people and how could such a scandal occur.

 

Allegedly—and I stress, allegedly—the WhatsApp chat between Poznanski-Katz and Shacham-Shavit can be seen as an offense according to two articles of the Penal Law: Obstruction of legal proceedings and improper influence on judicial decision-making.

 

This is how the law describes obstruction of justice: If a person does anything with the intention to prevent or foil a judicial proceeding or to cause a miscarriage of justice, then he is liable to three to seven years imprisonment. This is how the law describes improper influence: If a person endeavors to influence the result of a judicial proceeding in an improper manner, by inducements or by a request addressed to a judge or Court officer, he is liable to one year imprisonment.

 

Allegedly, the exchange of text messages between the judge and the attorney is doing just that: Foiling a judicial proceeding, causing a miscarriage of justice, addressing a judge in an attempt to influence her.

 

My suggestion is that instead of thinking about Shaul Elovitch the tycoon, who is seen as public enemy, we each think about ourselves, about our acquaintances, about our relatives. Anyone could find himself in court, either as an accuser or as a culprit, as a plaintiff or as a defendant. If the public reaches the conclusion that it’s all fixed, we will no longer have a legal system, because without faith there is no law.

 

Shaul Elovitch in court. Detention can’t serve as an alternative to a proper legal proceeding (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Shaul Elovitch in court. Detention can’t serve as an alternative to a proper legal proceeding (Photo: Yaron Brener)

 

In Israel, there is extra leniency towards the denial of suspects’ freedom. Remand judges sometimes act like rubber stamps: The State Attorney’s Office and the police file a request, and the judge accepts it.

 

People are detained not only because they may be a threat to others, or because they may conceal evidence, but also to get them to break down. That’s wrong. It’s wrong even if the suspect is guilty of every single suspected offense. Detention can’t serve as an alternative to a proper legal proceeding.

 

The ongoing detentions in Case 4000 caused discomfort even before Shacham-Shavit and Poznanski-Katz's text messages were revealed. Even if the detainees’ complaints about having fleas in their beds or being denied a shower were somewhat exaggerated, the arrests themselves were enough to raise questions. There are no good explanations for why one person is arrested for many days, while another person is only detained for questioning or is questioned under comfortable conditions. The only positive outcome of the text messages’ exposure is that the detainees will likely be released.

 

Up until Sunday evening, it was pretty clear who are the sons of light and who are the sons of darkness in this story. Today, it’s not as clear. In sports terms, the judge and the attorney scored an own goal in a decisive match, when the game was tied, at the very last minute.

 


פרסום ראשון: 02.26.18, 10:00
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