On Wednesday, a joint panel of the Courts Administration and the Israel Bar Association proposed a new judicial code of conduct that would prohibit judges from making "hurtful or insulting remarks, either orally or in writing, directed at attorneys, litigants, witnesses or anyone else taking part in a legal proceeding or present in the courtroom."
With regard to the judges, the final proposal is considerably milder than a draft proposed by the Courts Administration, which Haaretz reported on last year. For example, the draft would have barred judges from raising their voices, which the final proposal does not.
More significantly, the draft required judges to set a specific time for hearing each case and to begin the case at the specified time. The final proposal merely says that judges should begin the day's hearings on time and not schedule too many cases for the same hour. Currently, judges occasionally call several cases for the same hour, causing some litigants and lawyers to wait for hours until their case is finally heard.
The proposed code says that judges should act with restraint even when provoked, and try to create a pleasant atmosphere in the courtroom and allow every person to have their say. At the same time, it says, judges may set time limits on speeches in advance and intervene to halt irrelevant or offensive arguments.
Judges should avoid intervening excessively in the questioning of witnesses, according to the proposal, but they should not permit a line of questioning that is insulting, intimidating, misleading, irrelevant or unfair.
In addition, judges may not pressure lawyers and litigants to reach a settlement, under to the new proposed code.
As far as lawyers are concerned, the code would require them to show up on time and suitably dressed. It would prohibit them from requesting postponements without good reason, and it would require them to enter and exit the courtroom quietly so as not to disrupt hearings.
It would also bar lawyers from using any electronic device in the courtroom - including cell phones and even laptop computers - without the court's permission.
Under the code, attorneys must bow to the judge upon entering and leaving the courtroom, stand when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom, and address the judge in third-person (a form of honorific in Hebrew ). They must also refrain from interrupting or arguing with the judge.
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