Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Adar 5766 - March 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Observations: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Israeli Justice
by S. Yisraeli

Ha'aretz recently ran an interesting article that sheds light on what takes place behind the scenes in the Israeli justice system. Young attorneys come streaming to workshops organized by the Israeli Bar Association, where one can hear senior attorneys who go beyond predictable, boring, diplomatic speeches and share professional secrets with their young colleagues, exercising almost no self- censorship.

"Every successful attorney keeps a long list of tricks and tactics up his sleeve that he has gathered over the years. They have become the foundations of his success and in many instances they will determine the fate of a case. But not all of these secrets are especially edifying and undoubtedly differ somewhat from what young lawyers learn in university. But it seems there's no arguing with success . . . "

Attorney Yoram Yarkoni opened a recent conference by saying that despite common perceptions most judges do not read the whole statement of claims that the attorneys labor over. "The starting assumption is that except for a few unusual [judges] — who often leave the bench at a young age anyway - - none of the judges reads everything." Therefore, he says, the complaint should be short, well drafted and interesting, otherwise even the judge's intern won't bother to read it.

Here Yarkoni reveals another professional secret. One should get to know the judge to find out what style he prefers.

For instance some judges love gossip, and adding a bit of gossip in the statement of claims could pique the interest of the judge hearing the case. He mentioned the name of a retired judge, saying, "We wrote all the latest gossip, which enticed her into reading the entire claim."

The whole truth is not always stated — to say the least. Concealing arguments is the subtlest example of this. To confound the other side it is important not to pass on too much information. "Do not put anything you don't have to in your initial statement of claim. Although the High Court determined that one must `put all his cards out on the table,' sometimes one card may be slightly concealed by another."

While testimony is being given, says Yarkoni, lawyers should take pains to insure that their client takes the witness stand last. "He will hear all the testimony that has already been given and if you've prepared him correctly he will fix all sorts of mistakes they've made."

Yarkoni illustrates this with a joke. "Know the one about the guy who calls up his lawyer to notify him that he caused a car accident? `Wait for me there. I'm coming with the witnesses.'" The audience bursts out in laughter and Yarkoni says, "That's the way things are. We're not here to do justice!"

Later in the workshop, Attorney Sassi Gez, considered one of the top attorneys in criminal law, took the podium. One of the participants asked him how defense attorneys walk the thin line between legitimate representation and obstruction of justice, since attorneys are prohibited from abetting false testimony. Thus if the defense attorney knows his client really did perpetrate the crime attributed to him, he must drop the case if the defendant plans to present a different, deceitful version of events from the witness stand.

"We are a nation of obstructors of justice," Gez replied, but then immediately qualified his remark by saying, "I mean in quotation marks — don't take this out of context. Nobody is worth my obstructing justice illegally. There is legal and there is illegal [obstruction].

"I never ask the client, `Did you do it or did you not do it?' I don't want to obstruct justice and if you go by the book then if he tells you he did it you have to tell him, `Find yourself another lawyer.' But then you'll remain a civil attorney your whole life," says Gez with a smile.

"I make sure he does not tell me whether he stabbed or didn't stab, for instance. I tell him, `Don't tell me the truth, I don't want to know. Tell me what you told the police.' If it's at a detention center it's much easier. I scare him with wiretaps so he's careful not to talk. If he still [admits perpetrating the crime] I say, `What? I didn't hear you.' He simply sits far away and we understand one another," says Gez, and the audience bursts out laughing.

"It doesn't happen to me that they tell me," concludes Gez.

"And if it does happen?" persists a listener. "It happened to me in my first case."

"Based on your question it seems to me that was your last case, too," Gez replies, concluding his lecture.


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