Haifa Judge Quits Suddenly Amid Accusations of Plagiarism During University Studies

Judge Shimon Sher denies connection between resignation from Haifa Magistrate's Court and university proceedings against him.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

A Haifa Magistrate's Court judge has retired amid allegations that he copied an academic paper when he was a student at the University of Haifa law faculty starting in 2009.

The judge, Shimon Sher, said he was leaving "due to personal reasons," but the university has begun disciplinary action against him.

Sources told Haaretz that Sher, 53, had allegedly copied a paper as part of his MA work; the law faculty suspected this only after Sher completed all his requirements for the degree. The court system's website says he completed his MA studies with honors. Some sources at the university say they expect him to be severely punished.

"Judge Sher has recently notified us of his wish to retire from his position as a judge," the court administration said in a statement. "It was decided that he would retire on December 31, 2012, and that until that time he would be on leave."

Court sources say the fact the retirement took effect so suddenly was suspicious. Sher gave notice during the weekly judges' meeting about three weeks ago, but the judges weren't told Sher had been accused and that disciplinary proceedings were under way.

Sher was appointed a judge in July 2002. He served at the Acre Magistrate's Court and since 2006 at the Haifa Magistrate's Court. In 2004 he received the highest rating among Acre Magistrate's Court judges in a questionnaire administered by the Israel Bar Association.

In 2009 he completed with honors MA studies in law at the University of Haifa. Two years ago he began studying for a PhD and writing a thesis under Dr. Haled Ganaim. Ganaim told Haaretz that "the issue is a complex one and I'm sure he won't be convicted."

Sher told associates his retirement had nothing to do with the disciplinary proceedings and that he had intended to retire in any case. He said he had notified the courts that he sought a promotion and that if he wasn't promoted after 10 years he would leave.

Court sessions Sher was due to preside over have been postponed, and his cases will be taken over by other judges.

"Disciplinary actions taken by the university are classified, therefore we cannot provide details about any procedure," the University of Haifa said in a statement. "Nevertheless, the university and the law faculty enforce academic integrity and treat every disciplinary offense equally, regardless of the identity or status of the student in question."

Resignations due to plagiarism are not rare. About a year and a half ago, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg resigned after it emerged that he had copied large parts of his PhD thesis.

In May, a German blogger alleged that Education Minister Annette Schavan had plagiarized parts of her PhD dissertation; many Germans called on her to resign. Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed confidence in Schavan, but the University of Dusseldorf recommended annulling her PhD after finding that parts of the 1980 thesis were paraphrased without citing the original sources.

In April, Hungarian President Pal Schmitt resigned after an investigative committee ruled that he had copied his PhD thesis almost in its entirety. Schmitt at first refused to step down but later bowed to public pressure.

Judge Shimon SherCredit: Court website
Students attending a lecture at Haifa University.Credit: Hagai Frid
Judge Shimon SherCredit: Court website

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