Family Court Judges Seek Protection From Violent Parents

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

Family court judges have recently appealed to the head of the courts administration to take action to protect them from parents whose children's cases are heard in their courts.

The judges wrote to Judge Michael Spitzer that they are increasingly being faced with threats, slander and incitement by parents. Some of these threats, claim the judges, are well within the sphere of criminal actions.

The judges sometimes feel that they are in real danger, according to one Ramat Gan judge, especially from fathers who are frustrated by judicial rulings. "We have become the punching bags of raging parents," the judge said to Haaretz. "Nowadays one can write or say anything about family court judges; our blood is allowed. If the system doesn't awaken soon, one of these days a family court judge will be the victim of violence. This is a dangerous process."

The judges have asked Spitzer to take actions such as ordering the removal of YouTube videos that slander family court judges, initiating civil lawsuits against parents who slander them, and submitting complaints to the police. They are also asking for physical protection when deemed necessary.

This month, a father whose child's case was heard by Judge Esperanza Alon in Haifa Family Court was charged after he allegedly threatened the judge and her children. According to the indictment, the father told Alon's secretary, who had called him to notify him of a ruling in his child's case, that he isn't interested in what the judge has to say, and to tell Alon to take good care of her children.

Uri Yaakov, who has been running a campaign for years to dismiss Judge Ariel Ben-Ari - who dealt with his child's case in Ramat Gan Family Court - insists the system's effort to paint the parents as dangerous is grave and unacceptable, and constitutes an act of delegitimization. Yaakov recently posted a petition on Facebook calling for the establishment of a national inquiry committee to examine the court system in general, and family courts in particular.

"Family courts have become a source for increased tension between the sides. They harm the families, and worst of all, they harm the children. These are the most sensitive issues. They abuse families and children, and put the parents in extreme situations. As a result of the emotional distress, these parents are arrested. First they are abused and then marked as dangerous," Yaakov says.

The courts administration said it is deeply concerned by any action which might try to influence the independence of the judicial process, and which threatens judges in general and family court judges in particular.

"The family court judges must often rule on emotionally complex matters, and following their rulings often suffer harassment, threats, demonstrations and slandering publications that are often fed to the media by one of the sides. The courts administration has taken steps and will continue to act decisively, by all means available, with the cooperation of court security guards and the police to eradicate these manifestations, while treating each case individually."

Judge Michael SpitzerCredit: Tomer Appelbaum