Most Israeli Judges Feel Burnt Out, New Study Finds

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Israel's top court, last year.
Israel's top court, last year.Credit: יוסי זמיר
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The majority of Israeli judges feel their work is emotionally burdensome, have trouble coping with it and struggle to maintain a work-life balance, a new study concluded.

The study, commissioned by the Courts Administration, found that the emotional burden was particularly heavy for family court and juvenile court judges. Proportionally, they were the most likely to complain about various problems with their job.

The study, which will be released officially on Tuesday, was conducted by Gali Aviv and attorney Dalia Erental. It queried 676 judges and registrars – 87 percent of the total number of the people working in these occupations – who have collectively heard 14,800 cases.

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The researchers monitored the judges’ activity for five weeks. Initially, they evaluated the time that was spent on different types of cases. Later, they commissioned a survey that sought to estimate the emotional burden imposed by their work.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said their workload is “disproportionate and too heavy.” This included 91 percent of family court judges, 83 percent of labor court judges and 75 percent of district court judges.

A whopping 94 percent of respondents said they often have to be available after work hours and do a lot of work at home. In addition, 56 percent said they have trouble with their work-life balance. Here, too, family court judges led the pack, with 85 percent voicing such complaints, compared to the 78 percent of district court judges and 72 percent of magistrate’s court judges.

Almost half the respondents, 49 percent, said their work is emotionally burdensome; just 30 percent said they didn’t feel this way. Complaints of feeling emotionally burdened came from 100 percent of juvenile court judges and more than 75 percent of family court judges. In contrast, just 40 percent of district and magistrate’s court judges felt this way.

The researchers found that judges who handle civil cases felt much less burdened emotionally than those who handle criminal cases. Among the latter, 63 percent of district court judges and 78 percent of magistrate’s court judges found their work emotionally burdensome.

The survey also asked whether judges felt they had the tools to deal with this emotional burden. Sixty-two percent said they did not – a figure that rose to 70 percent among juvenile court judges – while 34 percent said they did. Nevertheless, 60 percent said they had people with whom to share their problems.

In addition, 59 percent felt they had to hide their true feelings while on the job, compared to 37 percent who disagreed.

The study found that an Israeli judge’s average workday is similar to that of an American judge – 8.5 to 10.5 hours per day. Around a third of judges said they also work an average of four hours on Shabbat.

For district court judges, serious crime cases are the most time-consuming, averaging 148 hours per case, up from 85 hours just eight years ago. Civil suits, by comparison, require just 36 hours on average.

For magistrate’s court judges, the most time-consuming cases are appeals of decisions made under the law governing assistance to families of soldiers killed in battle. These cases average 14 hours each. In contrast, criminal cases require an average of just five hours apiece.

For labor court judges, the most time-consuming cases are class actions, which require an average of 45 hours each.

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