The Klagsbald rhumba
The enormously publicized trial of attorney Dori Klagsbald, who stands accused of killing a mother and son in a traffic accident, has already been the subject of much black humor. Cynics have been chuckling that going by police reports, if Klagsbald wasn't drunk, or speeding, or talking on his cellphone during the fatal accident, then maybe the mother and son are at fault.
If it weren't so sad, it might be funny. But it is sad, and not only because two young people lost their lives for no reason, and a third person's reputation is in tatters. It is sad because the Israeli legal system is on trial together with Klagsbald, and has already been declared guilty.
The mad dance surrounding Klagsbald's trial has Israel's best-known lawyers swirling wildly, but it's a dance of connections. Is it true that in the state of Israel, connections are king? Is that true, even when it comes to a criminal trial involving two deaths?
The time that passed until the police administrated an alcohol-level test on Klagsbald. Questioning him at his home, not at the station house. The remarkable speed at which a trial date was set, or alternatively, at which he will plead his case before the district attorney general. All these triggered protests that Klagsbald is receiving special treatment by the investigative and prosecution systems, and perhaps by the judicial system as well. Note the reports on the party Klagsbald attended, at which he was a magnet for the judges of the land, who came to console him for his travails.
This is not the place to judge whether the complaints are just. In fact, it doesn't matter at this point: the point is, that the complaints exist and that they are widespread. They are openly published in the press and have become the talk of water-coolers among lawyers, judges and the business sector too. The complaints themselves have become an issue. They attest to what depths Israel's justice has fallen.
The deterioration has been ongoing for years. The ones at fault, who are solely responsible, are the partners in the justice system: the private lawyers, the state prosecution, and the judges. These three partners feel that they are one with the people. Instead of preserving the old-fashioned European norms of judges remaining in isolation from the people, Israel's judges millions with the people. With the prosecutors and lawyers, true, but they are - people. And as they descended unto the people, the aura of dignity that they and the justice system in Israel dissipated.
It is hard to maintain respect for the legal system, when it preoccupies itself all day with burning issues such as the promotion of the wife of the Supreme Court president, Elisheva Barak. It is hard to maintain the appearance of a bird's eye view of the people, when the prosecution sets a legal precedent when suspicions of tax evasion touched the husband of the Supreme Court vice president. You can't even talk of respect, when the sons and daughters of judges sail through their internships in the courts, from the Supreme Court to lower courts. It is hard to believe in objectivity when you see the photos of gourmandish cocktails at which judges and lawyers rub shoulders, everybody busily networking.
True, even top justices and lawyers are human, and they have friends too. By nature, their friends originate from their own profession. And true, they also have children, who saw that their homes prospered and want to be lawyers too, and to learn at the best place possible - the Supreme Court. All true, but if a person wants to adopt the norms of the man in the street, let him not cavil that he isn't treated with additional respect any more
That remote dignity bears a price. It is the price of serving as a personal example by people who demand noblesse oblige of themselves. A personal example means that the relatives of judges should not hold functions in the justice system, to remove any appearance of preferential treatment within the system. A personal example also requires that judges impose on themselves a sort of social isolation, and not mix with senior prosecutors and lawyers, to ensure that justice is not only done, but is seen to be done, and that nobody suspects a bias regarding any particular advocate appearing before them.
True, they are harsh decrees. They are certain severe and stringent beyond the "buddies" norms of Israeli society. But to save the reputation of the justice system and ensure that when the next highly-publicized trial begins, the system will not find itself tried by the people, hopelessly trying to proving that no such thing exists - this must happen. It is the greatest challenge before the next person to be elected president of the Supreme Court.