Women’s groups in Israel challenge official divorce statistics

Earlier this week, Israel’s rabbinical courts released their annual statistics on divorces granted in the country, noting a very slight uptick over last year.  The statistics also identified the number of divorces granted to women whose husbands had left the country, as well as the number of “recalcitrant husbands” who were sanctioned by the courts for refusing to grant a divorce to their wives.

The latter statistics are relevant because marriage and divorce in Israel is governed by Jewish law (halacha), and divorces fall purely within the province of the country’s rabbinical courts. To obtain a divorce, both parties to the marriage must agree.  In practice, this often means that a woman who wants a divorce (for any reason, including spousal abuse) cannot obtain one without her husband’s consent.  Courts are authorized to sanction “recalcitrant husbands” who refuse to agree to a divorce, but this process typically takes years of court hearings.

Shortly after the statistics were released, several women’s groups in Israel questioned their validity.  In particular, the groups claimed that the number of sanctioned husbands badly underestimated the number of husbands nationwide who refused to grant a divorce.  The groups also questioned the statistics showing that 211 women were granted divorces in 2016 after their husbands fled the country, noting that the special court unit charged with administering such divorces would have granted almost one per workday–an impossibly high amount.

 

Iowa Supreme Court bans firearms in all state courthouses

In an order issued by Chief Justice Mark Cady, the Iowa Supreme Court yesterday banned firearms from all courthouses and justice centers in the state. The statewide regulation does not extend to law enforcement officials who are on duty in the buildings.

Although about half the counties in Iowa already restrict or ban weapons in courthouses, the Supreme Court rule creates a uniform statewide regulation.

Cady said in the order said that while the weapons policies were implemented to make the courtrooms safer, they have “failed to provide uniform protection across the state and throughout every courthouse.”

He acknowledged implementing a statewide weapons policy and the issue of restricting weapons is difficult, and this becomes more complex because city and county offices are within many court buildings. But he added it’s the court’s “constitutional responsibility” to make these buildings safe “before history records more acts of courthouse violence.”

Update on the Maire Whelan controversy in Ireland

The controversial appointment of former Attorney General Maire Whelan to Ireland’s Court of Appeal last week continues to draw headlines. Minority parties in the government have alleged several improprieties with the appointment, including that Whelan never formally applied for the post through the Judicial Appointment Advisory Board, and that she remained in the Cabinet meeting while her appointment was being debated.

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UK to review judicial salaries and working conditions

The Times of London reports that the United Kingdom’s Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) will review the pay and working conditions for the country’s judges, in light of ongoing difficulties in recruiting qualified judicial candidates.  The Times explains:

A judicial attitudes survey has found low morale among existing judges because of the erosion of their pay levels, and in particular their pension, increased administrative workload and poor working conditions.

The review, announced yesterday, will look at three areas: the judicial salary structure and whether this can be simplified; the way in which judicial leadership should be rewarded and incentivised, and judicial recruitment, retention and motivation.

The study findings are expected to be released in June 2018.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb throws her hat into Governor’s race

Sue Bell Cobb, who served as Chief Justice of Alabama from 2007 to 2011, announced last week that she is running for Governor of the state.  She becomes the second Alabama Chief Justice in as many months to seek an elected position in another branch.

Cobb has considerable campaign experience from her days on the judiciary.  In 2006, she was involved in the most expensive judicial race in the nation, spending more than $2.6 million to win the Chief Justiceship.  Since leaving the court, she has spoken out against money in judicial politics, although not against judicial elections themselves.

Two additional observations.  First, Cobb appears to be a deeply religious woman, and her announcement and website are rife with religious themes.  Those same themes came through during her 2006 judicial campaign.

Second, Cobb had this to say about her retirement from the court system in 2011: “My chief obligation as the top administrator of the court system was to secure adequate funding from the legislature for the judiciary. I became very concerned that, because of the partisanship within the legislature, I would be unable to succeed in that most important responsibility.”

It will be interesting to see if, and how, these themes manifest themselves in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Major controversy brews over judicial appointment in Ireland

A significant political controversy appears to be brewing in Ireland after the outgoing Taoiseach (prime minister), appointed Attorney General Maire Whelan to a seat on the country’s second highest court. Minority parties in the government, including Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, have charged that the appointment violated established procedures. It also appears that Whelan never sought the post.

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Three Australian ministers may face contempt charges for criticizing judges

In Australia, the Supreme Court of Victoria has order three government ministers and two journalists to appear before it to explain why they should not face contempt charges for eroding trust in the legal system.  One minister reportedly said that “Labor’s continued appointment of hard-left activist judges has come back to bite Victorians.”  Another allegedly warned that the courts “should not be places for ideological experiments in the face of global and local threats from Islamic extremism.”

The linked article offers as excellent explanation of the two forms of contempt available in Australia.  Although these proceedings are apparently quite rare, they are still shocking to American sensibilities. First Amendment protections and respect for vigorous political speech would make prosecution of this sort unthinkable.

I would welcome any readers more knowledegable than I in Australian jurisprudence (not a high bar) to offer thoughts in the comments.