Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Zvi Caspi
Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Zvi Caspi. Photo by Globes
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Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Zvi Caspi announced his resignation from the bench yesterday, preempting his expected ouster from the post. Caspi has had a reputation of being the "bad boy" of the judicial system and has been known to send venomous e-mails about the heads of the system and encourage rebellion in the ranks of his fellow judges.

His announcement that he is stepping down follows an unusual recommendation by the judicial ombudsman, retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, suggesting that Caspi face a judicial disciplinary tribunal over delays in issuing his decisions. Details regarding these delays can be found in the annual report Goldberg issued yesterday.

Of any judge on the bench, Caspi has some of the longest delays in issuing court judgments and other decisions. Goldberg found two complaints against Caspi's delays justified, including one filed against him by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, whose grievance followed discussions she'd held with Caspi that failed to resolve the matter.

In his recommendation, Goldberg stated that Caspi did not recognize that the delays in his work reflected poorly on the judicial system as a whole, in addition to the delays experienced in individual cases.

Goldberg ruled that Caspi had gone too far and that the system could not show forgiveness of his conduct or any tolerance for the delays. Beinisch and court administrator Moshe Gal have both made it a priority to reduce delays in the judicial system, saying holdups in handing down judicial decisions would not be tolerated. Offending judges have been called in for discussions on the matter.

Following Goldberg's recommendation that Caspi face disciplinary proceedings, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman approached Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to have a special prosecutor appointed to the case.

Caspi's resignation is expected to go into effect after he takes a sabbatical. Court sources said, however, that Neeman is so determined to pursue the case against Caspi that his announced resignation would not head off disciplinary action.

The magistrate's court judge has been prominent among his colleagues in criticizing Goldberg and his predecessor, retired Supreme Court Justice Tova Strasberg Cohen, for their efforts to broaden the authority of the judicial ombudsman.

In an e-mail on the issue to his fellow judges, Caspi wrote: "The question is how a sitting judge can continue in his position when he is subject to daily blackmail and how the judicial system will operate when it is staffed by judges who are even more frightened than they are now."

After deputy ombudsman Shmuel Hamdani recently distributed an e-mail to the country's judges on the occasion of his retirement, thanking them for their cooperation, Caspi responded with an e-mail to the entire distribution list stating: "There is no need for thanks. Anyone who 'cooperated' with you was either a collaborator in the bad sense of the word or cooperated with you as a subject of an investigation, by force and without choice. There is no reason to take leave of us."

Following Caspi's e-mail, which was sent to every judge in Israel, along with Hamdani, the court administration decided to block judges' ability to send an e-mail to every single judge in the country. For his part, Caspi sent an e-mail apologizing for his earlier comments, saying he had made a mistake. Goldberg wrote to Beinisch and Neeman expressing his outrage at Caspi's earlier message, but noted he could not take action against Caspi over it as he can only act on complaints filed against judges by others.