Texting Scandal Prompts New Rules for Judges

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Israeli judiciary has adopted a new set of rules for interaction between judges and law enforcement officials in the wake of a scandal involving collusion revealed in text messaging between a judge and a state lawyer.

Under the new rules, promulgated on Sunday by President of the High Court Esther Hayut, contact between the judge and the investigative and prosecuting bodies will be strictly limited to court hearings. Any requests regarding pending cases must be made through the court administration, not by direct communication.

“We have been given the opportunity to provide an appropriate and transparent response to any systemic impairment,” Hayut said in a statement. She expressed the hope that the new regime “will help regulate the working interfaces between judges and the prosecution and investigation bodies, and will strengthen the public’s confidence in the system.”

Eran Shacham-Shavit, the legal adviser to the Israel Securities Authority, was working on the Bezeq graft case in February when Channel 10 News obtained an exchange of text messages with the presiding judge, Ronit Poznanski-Katz, in which they orchestrated an upcoming prosecution request for release of some suspects but not others. Poznanski-Katz agreed to play along, making a farce of what was supposed to be an impartial hearing.

Following disclosure of the textings, Poznansky-Katz was removed from the case, and in April a disciplinary court found her guilty of unbecoming behavior. No date has been set for the sentencing.

Last month Shacham-Shavit signed a plea deal with the Civil Service Commission which allows him to return to the investigations department of the ISA, where he was to be severely reprimanded, and demoted for a year. After that time, he will be permitted to resume his previous position as the legal adviser to the Investigations Department of the ISA.