Prosecutors to Have Own Ethics Code

The State Prosecutor's Office is moving ahead on the formulation of an ethics code for prosecutors. Among the issues under discussion are the obligation of prosecutors to the court and to their colleagues within and beyond the State Prosecutor's Office, and what to do when these obligations clash.

The draft of an ethics code for prosecutors was first formulated some 10 years ago by then-state prosecutor Edna Arbel, now a Supreme Court justice.

The State Prosecutor's Office is scrutinized by the state comptroller and is also subject to the code of conduct of the Israel Bar Association and the Civil Service Commission. However, many cases remain unscrutinized, and in recent years a number of mishaps and mistakes have been in the media spotlight.

In rare instances, a case may reach the Civil Service Commission disciplinary tribunal, such as the recent statements attacking the justice system made by Deputy Jerusalem District Prosecutor Uri Corb. Another case, in which a prosecutor withheld from the defense team a document essential to its case - as in the case the media dubbed "the Ein Gedi rapist" - was not dealt with by the tribunal.

Among those at work on the ethics code is State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Deputy State Prosecutor Shuki Lamberger, administrative chief in the state prosecutor's office, Elad Rosenthal, and others.

Also under consideration is the appointment of an official in the state prosecutor's office who would be oversee implementation of the ethics code. Discussions are soon to get underway with the Civil Service Commission about the possible powers of such an official.

official working on the ethics code, it is likely that the official in charge of implementing the code will have fewer powers than the Civil Service Commission tribunal, which can dismiss a civil servant.

Retired Supreme Court justice Yitzhak Zamir, who is on a committee of the Jerusalem Center for Ethics, which is assisting the state prosecutor's office in formulating the code, said: "When Attorney Uri Corb makes statements against judges and the justice system, it is not a criminal matter, but an ethical one.

Therefore, what constitutes a prosecutor's inappropriate statement must be defined. Just as journalists, lawyers and doctors have ethics codes, so should the state prosecutor's office have a code defining appropriate and inappropriate conduct."

Daniel Milo, director of the Jerusalem Center for Ethics, said the goal of the code is to establish an internal mechanism to regulate who is worthy of being a prosecutor representing the state.

According to Milo, the ethics code would be better than an external ombudsman, "just as it is preferable for journalists to scrutinize the implementation of their own ethics code and not an external official who imposes ethical rules."

Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen said the draft of the ethics code formulated during the term of Justice Edna Arbel as state prosecutor is "one of the documents at the foundation of the work on the ethics code for state prosecutors, together with additional versions of the ethics code formulated by the organization over the years."