Bill Would Let Israel's President Pardon Professionals Who Receive Disciplinary Penalties

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

The legal adviser to the President's Residence is promoting a bill that would let the president grant clemency when ministries take extreme disciplinary measures against certain professionals.

The government can take such measures against members of 24 professions, from pharmacists to accountants. Once measures are taken and a court confirms them, the practitioner has no further recourse. Currently, such professionals can only seek clemency when they are convicted of a criminal offense.

For example, in April the Be'er Sheva District Court rejected an appeal by veterinarian Daniel Mamut against the Agriculture Ministry's permanent revocation of his license. The revocation came after complaints that Mamut had operated on animals negligently and sometimes caused them extreme suffering.

Mamut claimed in his appeal that the Agriculture Ministry's decision was disproportionate and prevented him from making a living. But the court accepted the ministry's position that the penalty should not be replaced by a lesser penalty such as a temporary revocation of his license.

In recent months, President's Residence legal adviser Udit Corinaldi-Sirkis has been promoting the bill in question. The Justice Ministry's legislation department is assisting with the work.

Under the Basic Law on the President, the president does not have the right to reduce a punishment meted out by a disciplinary board. But this is absurd, say people involved in the legislative work.

They cite the example of physicians who are convicted on criminal charges, and as a result are subject to disciplinary action by the Health Ministry. They would now be able to apply for a presidential pardon that would overturn the disciplinary action.

But physicians who are only charged with a disciplinary infraction cannot seek presidential clemency. The bill that the Presidential Residence has turned over to the Justice Ministry for perusal does not yet state the disciplinary cases where president would be able to grant clemency.

Another question is whether individuals whose licenses have been permanently revoked can seek a pardon, or only those who are hit with temporary revocations.

The chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, has welcomed the initiative. Eidelman recently joined senior anesthetists in seeking presidential clemency of Dr. Svetlana Russo-Lupo, who was convicted of manslaughter seven years ago when a patient died during eye surgery. After her conviction, the Health Ministry permanently revoked her license to practice medicine.

Eidelman said Saturday that a disciplinary action could affect a doctor's future, so it's only natural to allow another body to consider the disciplinary action taken.

"The pardon is an important institution in a democratic country, allowing hope for people who have been convicted," Eidelman said. He said the bill would require the president to consider the opinions of groups such as the Israel Medical Association.

Effi Naveh, head of the Israel Bar Association's Tel Aviv and center branch, is also head of that branch's ethics committee. He warned against injudicious use of pardons in disciplinary cases. He cited cases of lawyers accused of embezzlement, who, for lack of evidence or witnesses, are not prosecuted.

In such cases, he said, the prosecution "turns the case over to us to issue a penalty. Clearly if such a lawyer wins a pardon, the disciplinary action will become a mockery."

Shimon PeresCredit: Flash90