State Prosecution to Get Its Own Comptroller

Official responsible for monitoring the state prosecutor's office will be a prominent legal figure appointed by the attorney general, serving as an outside consultant.

Israel should soon have an official watchdog for the state prosecutor's office: Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will provide an outline of this new monitoring body on Tuesday to the Knesset's state control committee. Under the proposed formula, the official responsible for monitoring the state prosecutor's office will be a prominent legal figure appointed by the attorney general. This official will serve as an outside consultant to the attorney general.

The state prosecution's comptroller will act independently, and have the authority to select issues he/she wants to review. Yet the attorney general and state prosecutor will also be able to ask him to review ongoing challenges faced by the state prosecutor's office, including red tape and the slow handling of cases, plea bargain procedures, and the policy underlying the submission of indictments in certain types of cases. At first, this legal comptroller will concentrate on such ongoing issues faced by the state prosecution. At a later stage, the new comptroller might examine other legal topics, including the work of the police prosecution, which attends to 80% of criminal proceedings in Israel.

Attorney General Weinstein - Emil Salman - 13022012
Emil Salman

The legal comptroller is also expected to review the handling of specific cases identified by the attorney general. He will work directly with the attorney general in this respect - the new official is not supposed to be a referee who will receive detailed complaints submitted by parties to a dispute, including victims of crimes and attorneys, regarding the state prosecutor's handling of specific cases.

Officials at the Justice Ministry believe that the powers of this new legal comptroller ought to be spelled out in guidelines, but they want to obviate a protracted legislation process in the Knesset. Legal sources estimated on Sunday that the new position will be manned by a well-known retired judge, rather than a jurist who currently works in the Justice Ministry such as Deputy Attorney General Mike Blass, who is expected to leave his post in the coming months, or outgoing Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

A document obtained by Haaretz reflects differences of opinion expressed in recent months about this new post by officials who represent Attorney General Weinstein's position, as compared to officials who work for State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. One dispute involved the scope of the new comptroller's authority - the officials connected to Lador demanded that the new official should be empowered to begin an immediate review of all prosecution authorities, including police prosecutors.

Another dispute concerned the question of whether the comptroller will review general issues, or also be empowered to examined complaints in specific cases. On this matter, Weinstein's position was upheld.

Another issue was whether the official's review should be conducted in "real time," as prosecutors work on a specific case, or whether the official should examine problems in retrospect. Here, Lador's deputies argued that the comptroller should have access to an ongoing prosecution, lest he or she inadvertently obstruct its handling. Weinstein's deputies argued that in certain circumstances, the comptroller should be empowered to review an ongoing prosecution, in coordination with the attorney general.

The document establishes that Lador wanted this new official to work within the existing framework of the State Comptroller's Office, whereas Weinstein insisted that a prominent legal figure serve as an external consultant. Lador's deputies expressed concern that the formula propounded by Weinstein would not "contribute to the public's confidence in the state prosecutor's office, since this would be somebody entirely subordinate to the attorney general."