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The justice minister and the Courts Administration director visited the Tel Aviv District Court yesterday, where they presented a new draft law to reduce the judicial workload to the judges.

The proposal by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would permit the prosecution to reach an out-of-court sentencing agreement with suspects, bypassing the courts and reducing the judicial load.

The judges described their heavy caseload, and discussed the burden of complex cases with hundreds of witnesses. Friedmann noted that if necessary, he would support legislation letting judges both restrict the amount of time spent questioning witnesses and use pre-trial measures to shorten the judicial process.

Since the opening of the Petah Tikva district court, and the transfer of cases from the Tel Aviv district to the Central district, the number of judges in both districts has increased to 62, from 52, and the number of new criminal cases opened in Tel Aviv dropped by about 50 percent, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Friedmann briefed the judges on his efforts to amend the courts law so that civil suits of up to NIS 100,000 would be heard by a single judge, instead of a three-judge panel, and civil appeals are heard by two judges only.

Tomer Zarchin adds: Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel yesterday ordered a 90-day extension of the remand of Rostislav Bogoslavsky, 19, a Petah Tikva man who was arrested and indicted in May 2007 on suspicion of stabbing to death two strangers and injuring a third, as well as killing - and in some cases, eating - about 500 cats.

Bogoslavsky's trial is scheduled to begin in February 2009. In issuing the extension, Arbel criticized the common practice of requesting a remand extension until Supreme Court proceedings end. (Only the Supreme Court can authorize the holding of a suspect for longer than nine months - T.Z.)

"The extension of remand beyond the statutory period is no longer only for complex cases," Arbel wrote in her ruling. "Again and again we are requested to extend the detention of defendants charged with serious offenses whose trials have not begun within the mandated detainment period," due to the heavy caseload of the judge assigned to the case.