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'Slow' Family Court Judge Could Face Disciplinary Panel

The law authorizes ministers to file a disciplinary complaint against a judge to the ad hoc judicial disciplinary tribunal, which can take measures against a judge and even remove him from duty.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is considering filing a complaint against a Family Court judge because of the way he handles cases and his delays in issuing verdicts.

Neeman is considering the move in the wake of several complaints over the last few years against Judge Ariel Ben-Ari of Ramat Gan's Family Court - complaints which judiciary ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, found to be justified.

Yaakov Neeman (Emil Salman)
Emil Salman

Neeman has consulted the attorney general, who is examining the matter.

The law authorizes the minister to file a disciplinary complaint against a judge to the ad hoc judicial disciplinary tribunal, which can take measures against a judge and even remove him from duty.

A source close to Ben-Ari told Haaretz yesterday "a bunch of parents are conducting a revenge campaign against him."

Ben-Ari, whose verdicts have been criticized by fathers' rights groups, has been threatened twice by fathers he had ruled against.

One complaint against Ben-Ari said he had spoken to witnesses on the telephone before they testified in court. Tova Strasberg-Cohen, the judicial ombudsman at the time, had criticized Ben-Ari harshly for this.

At first Ben-Ari denied having spoken to the witnesses on the phone, but later admitted to Strasberg-Cohen that he had talked to an expert who was due to testify in his court and with a regional welfare official about visiting arrangements in a case he was handling, before she testified in court.

In another complaint Goldberg found justified, the complainant said he felt as though the proceedings had resembled a kangaroo court, in which the judge shouted at him, scolded him and treated him with prejudice.

The complainant's attorney said to Ben-Ari at the hearing, "Sir, why don't you kill him and finish the trial?"

Ben-Ari replied: "I still can't kill him, but pay heed, I can certainly write a verdict."

Two years ago a woman who was supposed to buy an apartment from an estate executor complained she had to wait two years for Ben-Ari's decision to authorize the deal.

In recent months, a father threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if Ben-Ari remained in office. The man, who had waited for the social affairs authorities to approve his visiting arrangement for about 18 months, subsequently submitted 15 requests for an urgent hearing when the visiting arrangements were not kept. But Ben-Ari revoked all the requests during a hearing on another case, which the complainant could not attend due to an illness.

Ben-Ari "trampled on my constitutional right to a fair procedure," he complained.

An associate of Ben-Ari's said an injustice was being done to him. "Ben-Ari is a dedicated judge who sees his work as a mission. A bunch of bitter parents are driving the system crazy and exerting pressure...He is not a biased, one-sided judge; he is balanced."

Avigdor Feldman, Ben-Ari's attorney, refused to comment.

The Justice Ministry and courts administration said the matter was still being reviewed.