Appeal to Supreme Court, Should a Judge who points out the Weakness of a Case at Pretrial, Recuse Herself for Having Preconceptions?

justiceYehoshua Fishler is suing G.A. Ehrlich LTD (Ehrlich & Fenster) in the Tel Aviv – Jaffa District Court.

He requested that Judge M Amit Anisman withdraw from the case.

The case concerns allegations and counter allegations of breach of contract concerning G.A. Ehrlich (1995) Ltd obligating themselves to register Fishler’s patent in various jurisdictions. In his Statement of Case, the complainant alleges that the defendant did not timely pay issue fees and as a result the case was not registered.

In a pre-trial hearing held on 7 February 2018, the parties stated their cases and Judge M Amit Anisman asked various questions and then ruled that “after the court explained to the complainant the likelihood and risks of the case and the difficulty in managing it, the complainant will have 14 days to reconsider the case and if they decide to continue, the defendant will be allowed to request that the complainant deposit a bond to cover defendant’s costs should the defendant prevail.”  

Fischler informed the court that he intended continuing with the case and so J A Ehrlich (1995) Ltd (henceforth Ehrlich) requested that Fischler be obliged to deposit a bond to cover costs should he lose. The court acquiesced to this request, ruling that such a bond was appropriate in this instance, inter alia because of the chances of the complainant prevailing. Regarding this, the Judge stated that “I am doubtful if the case can be considered as ‘a complete waste of time’. Nevertheless, one cannot be blind to the chances of the complainant prevailing that were shown by the defendant (requesting the bond) in light of the fact that the plaintiff is not relying on a point of law that obliges the agent acting as a service provider, to pay fees on behalf of the client.” Following this, Fischler appealed to the Supreme Court to have the Judge removed from hearing the case due to having adverse preconceptions as evidenced from the decisions of 7 February 2018 and 23 May 2018.

On 18 July 2018, the Judge presiding over the Court of First Instance refused the request for her to recuse herself. The Court argued that their referring the complainant’s attention to issues that adversely affected their chances of prevailing, does not provide grounds to a real claim that the court had interests or that the Judge should recuse herself. The Court had not reached a conclusion regarding the substance of the case, and the statements have to be understood in the context of the early stage then reached. The complainant’s allegation that the court invited the defendant to request that the complainant post a bond is incompatible with the sequence of events, since the defendant made it clear at the pre-trial hearing, that they intended making such a request. The Court emphasized that the fact that the defendant was given an opportunity to request the deposition of a bond does not indicate that the Court has reached any conclusion regarding the outcome of the trial, nor does it imply an assessment of the complainant or a ‘threat’ in any shape or form.  This is true regarding the 23 May 2018 ruling. The Court explained that requiring the complainant to post a bond does not imply that the Court had closed its mind. The additional claims of the complainant were a kind of appeal, and were improper in a request for a Judge to recuse herself.

This resulted in an Appeal to the Supreme Court, which was heard by Chief Judge Hayot. In a hearing before Judge Hayot, the complainant reiterated his allegations that the pre-trial hearings demonstrated that the Judge had already made up her mind. He reiterated his statement that the Court had invited the defendant to request a bond be set and that this was an “implied threat”. Fischler claimed that the decision to require a bond itself testified to the Court of First Instance having already made up its mind.

After considering the Statement of Appeal and its appendices, Judge Hayot ruled that it should be rejected. The protocol of the pre-trial hearing has nothing that provides a real indication that the Judge had a conflict or had made up his mind, and this is true of the interim ruling regarding deposition of a bond. The District Court did not ‘invite’ the defendant to request that a bond be placed. The defendant themselves announced that they would make such a request. Similarly, and without going into the issues themselves, the mere fact that the Court indicated problems with the charges brought is not a reason for the Court to disbar itself. The contrary is true. An effective management of the case is likely to result in the presiding Judge expressing an opinion – tentatively and with care – regarding the contended issues, and there is no reason for the Court to refrain from pointing out the weaknesses in the case of one of the parties, and even to suggest that a plaintiff consider withdrawing the case (Appeal 8893/17 Nasrallah vs. Aladin, paragraph 5 (22 November 2017).

Chief Judge Hayot considers that the Court has acted in an analogous manner in the current case by allowing the defendant to require that the complainant posts a bond should they decide to continue with the case. Finally, after reviewing the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the posting of the bond, it appears that they relate to the matters under dispute and it is not superfluous to note that when considering whether or not it is appropriate to require a party to post a bond, the Court should consider the likelihood of the parties prevailing. Consequently, requests for a Judge to recuse herself and appeals regarding these decisions are not the correct forums to raise these issues, and the correct way to appeal is via a formal appeal (see Appeal 2004/18 Plonit vs. Plonit, paragraph 4 (18 July 2018).

The Appeal is rejected. Since no response was required, no cost ruling is made.

Interim Ruling on Appeal by Judge Hayot in Appeal 5685/18 Fischler vs. G.A. Ehrlich (1995) ltd, 12 August 2018. 

COMMENT

Whether or not a Judge has preconceptions, unsuccessfully requesting her to recuse herself and then unsuccessfully appealing to the Supreme Court that the Judge be considered unfit to hear the case is unlikely to enamor the plaintiff with the Judge in question.

Israel Magistrate Court Rules that Screening a Football Match on Public Television at a Restaurant, not Copyright Infringement

Burgerim is a chain of burger shops. Back in 2013, a Burgerim branch in Givatayim screened a football match that was part of the Euro-league on a regular television set that was connected to their Cable TV supplier HOT, and was sued for copyright infringement by Charlton who owns the transmission rights. Charlton claimed that the screening was a public performance, whereas the restaurant claimed that they simply switched on the television. Judge Ronen Ilan of the Tel-Aviv Jaffa Magistrate’s Court ruled that even if the match is copyright protected, allowing customers to watch a publicly broadcast match is not a performance of the copyright protected work, and ruled costs of 12000 Shekels against the plaintiff.

This is a summary of his arguments:

Is switching on a television receiver in a work-place, whilst a TV game is broadcast on a public channel, considered copyright infringement?

Apart from screening the match on a television set, without any additional equipment such as an amplifier, for example, the defendant did not do any action whatsoever. In these circumstances, one cannot accept the plaintiff’s claim of copyright infringement for two reasons:

Firstly, in these circumstances, where the game is screened on a television set, there is no ‘performance’ of the transmitted creation due to the minor involvement of the one setting up the TV and the received in passing on the transmission, the involvement being limited to setting up the TV receiver. Thus specifically, due to the change in legislation due to the introduction of the Israel Copyright Law 2007, which differentiates between “public performance” and transmission. Due to all these reasons, activating the television in order to watch the transmitted program is not a “performance” of the creation.

Secondly, even were one to accept the claim that screening a transmitted creation is a “performance” of the creation, one still could not see a copyright infringement in this instance, since we are dealing with a transmission of something on a public channel. The plaintiff did not show that the Law prohibits screening a public broadcast to the public. Activating the television receiver to the public so that they can watch the game that is being broadcast on a public channel is not copyright infringement of a transmitted creation.

Furthermore, even if we were to accept the plaintiff’s claim that their creation was infringed; in the specific circumstances of this instance, where we are dealing with the screening of something on a public channel, where there was no advanced warning of any possible copyright infringement, but against this there is an attempt to prevent screening of sports programs which may be damaging to the defendant, the defendant is entitled to the claim of innocent infringement.

Civil Ruling 271019-09-15 Charlton vs. Bowling World, Ruling by Judge Ronen Ilan, 6 August 2018

COMMENT

Israel has public television channels that can be received on a television set equipped with an aerial. In the past, one required a license, but even this formality is no longer the case with the disbanding of the former television authority and the establishment of the new one.  Charlton holds the broadcasting rights for the Euroleague. The sports channel is a component of basic packages of “HOT” – the cable TV company, “YES” – the satellite TV company, and IDAN+ – the digital over-the-air option that gives you a small number of basic channels. All these are subscription services. No-one has a basic human right to access the sports channel but can purchase a subscription from a service provider.

There are sectors of the population, particularly the ultra-Orthodox, that do not have television. I know a number of people who are by no means ultra-Orthodox, but nevertheless, have forgone having television, as they see it is a waste of time, and something that prevents their children from developing useful reading skills and the like.  I also know many families that make do with the public stations and do not receive the sports channel. When there is a major sporting event such as the World Cup (Mondial), some of these people, including ultra-Orthodox youth, returnees to the faith, and others, go to pubs, pizza parlors and burger outlets to watch the match.  There are also others that have access at home, but go as a group to such a place to cheer on their team.

Givatayim backs onto the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak where owning a television set is frowned upon. I suspect that this is why the Givatayim Burgerim branch chose to screen the football.

In Appeal 6407/01 Tele-Event vs. Golden Lines, 7 July 2002, the Supreme Court recognized that sports matches, though not scripted (at least not officially and legally scripted) were, nevertheless, entitled to copyright protection.  This meant that the licensee with distribution rights in Israel could prevent the cable and satellite networks from transmitting broadcasts on foreign channels as part of their bundle.

When a match is screened by a food-outlet for their customers, it is part of the entertainment package. For similar reasons for it to be improper for a hotel to connect TV receivers in every room to a single subscription, but rather to require the hotel to obtain a commercial package, it makes perfect sense to prevent restaurants from screening matches without obtaining a special package to do so.

There is certainly a concept of de minimis fair use in copyright, and when a child of mine invites neighbors over to watch a match (or preferably goes to them), that is not copyright infringement, but a restaurant essentially rents chairs and tables. If it uses such screenings to attract punters, there is a good argument that they should pay to do so.  It will be interesting to see if Charlton appeals this ruling, and whether it is reversed.



Categories: Intellectual Property, Israel Court Ruling, Israel IP, Israel Patent, Uncategorized, הוצאות, החלטת ביניים, החלטת בית משפט, עורכי פטנטים, פטנט, פטנטים, קניין רוחני, קנין רוחני

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