Possibly crooked judge gets taken off case about definitely bad doctor

The court of The Hague is perhaps not known as the most even-handed in the world. This is the court where large, foreign media conglomerates shop for copyright jurisprudence. This is also the court that committed a crime in 2014 when it advertised for fresh judges, saying that women needed not apply. That was a clear case of discrimination based on gender, although I doubt anyone served even a day’s worth of gaol time for this.

So when this court dismisses a judge for being biased, that probably means something.

In an appeal in a case between Google and a doctor who had mistreated a patient, a judge was dismissed by the court over a possible conflict of interest, Emerce reported today. The plastic surgeon that this was about had been included on a blacklist, Zwarte Lijst Artsen, that bases its information on another, more opaque blacklist called BIG Register.

The people who run Zwarte Lijst Artsen run a companion blacklist on judges called Zwarte Lijst Rechters, which mainly focusses on judges who have helped absolve doctors from malpractice cases. As it happens, the judge from the initial court case, which was won by the doctor, was on this blacklist, so naturally Google appealed.

When it turned out that a judge in the appeal case also was on that blacklist, the court was unimpressed and unamused, and dismissed her.

At the time of the intial case, legal blogger Arnoud Engelfriet opined that the verdict was as expected and unremarkable: “Considering these facts, the verdict does not surprise me. I also would not call it trail-blazing.”

Engelfriets reasoning (refered to above by ‘these facts’) is a little bit hard to follow, so I won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say that if the BIG Register is so hard for average patients to find and peruse that judges see no reason to shut it down, and entries on another blacklist that is apparently transparent and usable are made hard to find, the court is basically saying that blacklists are de facto only allowed if they are unusable. And in my view that is not a fair weighing between the privacy rights of doctors and the rights of patients, and a neglect of one’s judicial duty.

The judge in the appeal case gave as an argument as to why she wasn’t influenced by the fact that she was on a blacklist herself, that the blacklist for judges wasn’t as impactful as the one for doctors. The court felt that argument irrelevant: “[This is not about] the possibility of a subjective impartiality, but about the objectively justified fear for impartiality”.

In other words, the court wasn’t so much worried that the judge might have a conflict of interest as it was that one of the parties would have the feeling that they were not being treated fairly.

The court will now have to appoint a new judge and then the saga of the plastic surgeon and her pals, the possibly crooked judges, can continue.

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