Fifteen-year Verdict Outlived Plaintiff Due to Judge's Backlog

Suit seeks NIS 330,000 in damages from retired Judge Michaela Shidlowsky Or for damages incurred by her delaying verdict for 15 years.

Judges who do not issue verdicts in a timely fashion are continuing to cost the taxpayer money: Last year the Courts Administration paid out hundreds of thousands of shekels to compensate people who suffered damage due to delayed rulings, and on Tuesday another such suit was filed in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.

The latest suit, which is seeking more than NIS 330,000 in damages, is against retired Judge Michaela Shidlowsky Or, the wife of former Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or. Shidlowsky Or was repeatedly criticized by the judicial ombudsman for taking too long to issue her rulings, but the current case is exceptional: It involves a verdict that took her 15 years to decide.

Michaela Shidlowsky Or - Moti Kimchi - 21122011
Moti Kimchi

Filed by Robert Hacco, a Jerusalem retiree, it concerns a lawsuit he and his now-deceased wife filed in the court in 1989. The original suit was a simple one: The Haccos sought compensation from a contractor for shoddy construction work; they also wanted the court to order a neighbor to vacate a common hallway. The courts handle tens of thousands of cases like this every year.

Shidlowsky Or first addressed the dispute with the neighbor, whom she eventually ordered to vacate the hallway. But it took her eight years to write the three and a half page verdict .

Moreover, when the neighbor refused the Haccos sought to have him declared in contempt of court. But that request has yet to be adjudicated.

Next, Shidlowsky Or turned to the suit against the contractor. That eight-page verdict took her seven years to write, meaning the ruling was finally issued only in 2005 - more than 15 years after the suit was filed. In the meantime the contractor's business had gone under and he could no longer pay the NIS 105,000, plus interest and linkage to inflation, that Shidlowsky Or had awarded the Haccos.

The suit Hacco filed on Tuesday detailed the couple's efforts to get Shidlowsky Or to hurry up: First they sent her a personal letter, then they appealed to judges Issak Revivi and Amnon Cohen, who headed the Courts Administration and the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, respectively, at that time. Later, their lawyer son met with Shidlowsky Or to beg her personally to hurry up. But nothing helped.

When the verdict was finally issued in 2005, Shidlowsky Or included a one-line apology for the delay.

The current suit does not blame Shidlowsky Or alone: It also argues that the Courts Administration was negligent in supervising her, given that delayed verdicts were not exceptional for Shidlowsky Or, but rather the norm.

Just last year, for instance, the Courts Administration paid NIS 210,000 in compensation to a Jerusalem lawyer, Adiel Cheshin, after Shidlowsky Or dragged her heels for nearly a decade over a lawsuit he had filed. By the time she finally did issue the verdict Cheshin was unable to collect the money because the defendant had gone bankrupt in the intervening time.

The Haccos' original lawsuit apparently "went missing" at some point after it was filed, in 1989, its absence noticed by Shidlowsky Or's superiors only in 2004 - years after she had been promoted to the district court.

Hacco told Haaretz on Tuesday that the handling of his original suit "does no honor to the legal system."

"The fault doesn't only lie with [Shidlowsky Or], but with those responsible for her who allowed this to happen," Hacco added.

Shidlowsky Or told Haaretz that she "doesn't remember the details of the case" and therefore "can't respond in a responsible fashion."

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