Katsav Ruling Undermines Public Trust in the Courts

The credibility and authority that the public instill in the courts is undermined when the justice system allows Katsav to roam free, in a decision that shows not all people are equal in the eyes of the law.

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision to the effect that former President Moshe Katsav will not begin serving his prison sentence, pending a decision on his appeal, is a bad decision, involving problematic reasoning and grave consequences. More than he explains his reasons in his 30-page decision, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger relates the story of the conviction. In a very tortuous style, and based on a precedent that may have nothing to do with the case of the former president, the justice tries to support his decision.

Inter alia, Justice Danziger points out that some of the testimony may require further clarification, and that there are cases in which a person who committed crimes similar to those of Katsav sat behind bars, while in other cases the felon was not sentenced to an active prison term.

This casuistry is surprising, to say the least; in most of the cases when the Supreme Court does not reject an appeal out of hand, it is clear, in any event, there may be another discussion and even a decision to change the sentence (or not ). Moreover, just at the stage of summing up the explanations and formulating the decision, Danziger states that "the chances of appeal in these convictions are probably not great."

But even were the chances of appeal of the serious convictions - for which the former president was sentenced to seven years in prison - are far better than Danziger anticipates, and there is no connection between them and the unfortunate decision to leave Katsav outside prison. Any other criminal convicted of this type of crime is placed in detention until the conclusion of proceedings (in many cases even longer than the nine months allowed by law, by means of a court-initiated extension ), and goes to prison straight after sentencing - whether or not the convicted has submitted an appeal.

The court's decision to delay Katsav's incarceration shows, once again, there is a contradiction here to the principle of equality, and the decision can be viewed as showing preference to people in high places. In his decision Justice Danziger cited the prosecution's contention that delaying imprisonment is liable to harm public confidence in the legal system and to undermine its authority. It's a shame that the justice did not consider this statement seriously enough. Katsav's walking around free undermines the credibility and authority of the courts in the eyes of the public.