Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman yesterday persuaded the Israel Bar Association to drop its complaint against a Tel Aviv judge who had altered a court transcript, ending an affair that had threatened to send shock waves through the legal system.
In a meeting between Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshech and district heads of the Israel Bar Association, the Bar Association retracted its demand that the justice minister act toward dismissing Alshech via the Judicial Selection Committee, or take disciplinary measures against her in the Judicial Disciplinary Court.
Both sides agreed to retract their reciprocal complaints, thereby effectively accepting the recommendation of Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, who advised Neeman to suffice with a severe reprimand and a note added to Alshech's personal record.
In June, judicial ombudsman Eliezer Goldberg issued a harsh report against Alshech, saying the judge had illegally altered a court transcript in a way that did not reflect what occurred in the courtroom, in order to strengthen a complaint she submitted to the Bar Association against an attorney.
Goldberg wrote that Alshech had introduced fundamental technical changes to the transcript. "A decision read by a judge in the presence of all sides in a courtroom is not a 'grade B' document that can be altered by the judge later. In this case we can determine that the judge was not authorized to alter or change her decision."
The Bar Association district heads had threatened to petition the High Court of Justice against Grunis' decision not to oust Alshech.
During the meeting, Alshech said that since the affair first made headlines, her blood had been spilled in the media as "the judge who fakes transcripts." Neeman told the Bar Association heads that he did not intend to act contrary to Grunis' recommendation, adding that the Bar Association made its view public, which was an achievement in itself.
He asked that the Bar Association drop its demands in order to maintain respect for both the judicial system and Grunis. The Bar Association representatives accepted Neeman's suggestion.
Attorney Asher Axelrod, Jerusalem District head of the Bar Association, said the organization's decision "was accompanied by a severe dilemma. I think we proved that the Bar Association can carry out a struggle to maintain the good name of a lawyer, while in parallel insisting on disciplinary steps against a judge who acts incorrectly. For the sake of maintaining the legal system's prestige and to avoid harming it, I think the steps we took were warranted."
The Bar Association's Tel Aviv and Center District head, Effi Naveh, added: "We maintain that Alshech's act was a severe one that deserves the ending of her tenure. Out of genuine concern for the judicial system and Grunis' recommendation, we accepted the minister's suggestion, and I believe that behavior of this type will not be repeated in the future."
In a joint announcement to be released this morning by the Bar Association's district heads to every lawyer in the country, they write that they took upon themselves the role of the "responsible adult," who sees the health of the judicial system and maintaining public trust in the system as paramount.
"It was clear to all of us," they wrote, "that the other alternative was to continue our struggle, to take legal steps against the legal system and all those standing at its head, which could produce a severe and irreversible shock to the system."