Car Owner Sues Police, Courts for Tossing Auto Without Telling Her

It isn't every day that someone sues the police, the state prosecutor and the Courts Administration for ordering that a car be destroyed without notifying the owner.

Samira Mansour, from the Galilee village of Jadida, was registered as the owner of the car in question - a 1995 Chevrolet Corsica. In 2003, according to the suit she filed in the Krayot Magistrate's Court, a fire damaged the car and it was taken to a garage for repair. For the next two years, its registration was renewed without difficulty.

But then Mansour's husband Mohammed heard that police were asking questions about the car, saying they suspected its identification had been forged. He went to the Acre police station, told the police which garage he had used and offered to leave the car at the station while police conducted their inquiries.

In 2007, Mohammed asked the Haifa District Attorney's Office about the status of the case and was told it had been closed a year earlier due to lack of evidence. His attorney, Jeryes Farah, then examined the case file - and discovered that Acre Magistrate's Court Judge Ziad Salih had ordered that the car be destroyed in February 2006.

In her suit, Samira Mansour claims that neither she nor her husband were ever informed that the police were seeking the car's demolition. In fact, the police request to the court did not even name Samira Mansour - the registered owner - as a respondent. Instead, it named her husband and the garage owner.

Salih, the suit added, never asked the police for any evidence as to who owned the car - such as its registration documents - or any expert opinion on whether its identity markings were forged; he simply took their word. As such, he deprived Samira Mansour of her legal right to contest the demolition order.

The prosecution similarly made no effort to inform Mansour or hear her side of the story, and was thus equally at fault, the suit claims. She is seeking damages of NIS 43,000.

Attorney Shlomit Shoshany, responding on behalf of the defendants, argued that Salih enjoys judicial immunity from lawsuits, even if he were proven to have been negligent. Moreover, she argued, because the car's markings were forged, Samira Mansour could not legally have recovered it even had it not been destroyed. Shoshany also submitted an expert opinion to support the forgery claim.

But Farah countered by saying that judicial immunity does not extend to gross negligence, and neglecting to inform the owner that her property is about to be destroyed qualifies.