Courts Administrator Displayed Apparent Double Standard in Disciplining Lawyers

Questions are being raised as to whether courts administrator Moshe Gal applies a double standard in regards to criticism of the judicial system. About two weeks ago, Gal contacted the ethics committee of the Israel Bar Association seeking to have the bar open disciplinary proceedings against Uri Corb, the former chief prosecutor in the trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Corb was recording making disparaging remarks about judges and the judicial system.

Haaretz has learned that a short time before that, Gal had approached the Israel Bar Association requesting that another lawyer be forgiven for harsh and crude remarks which she had made about a judge. The lawyer was recorded by a former client as saying that a judge handing a case in which she had appeared, was "an idiot. We have stumbled upon garbage for a judge. Real garbage - not just a coward."

Gal is considered a defender of respect for judges and is aggressive about filing disciplinary complaints against lawyers who impugn judges' reputations. He did not hesitate to contact the bar association over Corb's remarks, which included a statement made to a limited number of students that "a major portion of judges are jackasses." Gal did not react in the same manner with respect to the earlier case over which he contacted the bar association.

In the earlier case, the client whose lawyer had made the disparaging remarks had filed a petition in Jerusalem District Court following an Education Ministry decision to expel the client's son from school. The judge in the case decided to transfer the case to a ministry committee which ultimately accepted the ministry's position and expelled the student.

A dispute then developed between the client and her lawyer. In a private conversation between the two after the conclusion of the case, the lawyer was recorded by the client without the lawyer's knowledge as making disparaging remarks about the judge. She was also recorded criticizing the client in front of the client and her son.

Several weeks ago, the lawyer asked to meet with Gal, the courts administrator, for a private conversation. Following their talk, Gal took the unusual step of writing to the ethics committee of the Israel Bar Association seeking leniency for the lawyer over her disparaging remarks about the judge. In his letter he explained that "more than once a lawyer will face pressure due to various positions of the court and of clients, and his remarks in a conversation with his client should be received with forgiveness. I forgive the lawyer for her remarks."

On behalf of Gal, court spokeswoman Eilat Filo told Haaretz, "These are two different cases [and] comparison between them is inappropriate. There is an attempt here to create something from nothing motivated by personal animosity, and the matter will still be resolved."

The lawyer's client, an Israeli who lives abroad, was surprised to hear of Gal's decision to ask for the lawyer to be forgiven.

"You don't talk like that," the client said. "[Where I live now] there is respect for judges. Here they don't forgive remarks directed against judges. There is no need to forgive someone who talks like that."