Sheftel: Time to End High Court ‘Dictatorship’
Attorney Yoram Sheftel welcomed on Thursday the new legislation that will change the way that judges are selected to the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the Knesset approved two bills seeking to reform appointments to the Supreme Court. The first bill called for the automatic appointment of the Bar Association president to the Judge Selection Committee.
The second bill, dubbed the Grunis Law, was proposed by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union). It amends the present law and would allow the appointment of a Supreme Court Chief Justice with only two years remaining until retirement.
Israel's Supreme Court Chief Justices are appointed on the basis of seniority. The bill is widely seen as meant to pave the way for Justice Asher Dan Grunis to serve as the next president. Grunis is against the activist Supreme Court policy initiated by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who claimed that "everything is judgeable" in the courts and proceeded to act upon that principle. Under Barak the court changed the route of the security fence to comply with Arab claims and opened route 443 to Arab drivers, despite IDF security-related objections.
However, a third bill that would require candidates for the Supreme Court to be vetted by a Knesset committee, similar to the U.S. Senate review of Supreme Court Justices, was blocked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. His reasoning was that the bill is unconstitutional and stands in contrast to the coalition guidelines.
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Sheftel said that it is a shame that the prime minister prevents the desired change in the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court currently operates under a certain political ideology and the bills are supposed to correct that situation,” he said. “It’s a shame that Netanyahu is showing ignorance and saying that holding a hearing for potential judges is inappropriate.”
“This is an important proposal that could bring about the desired change,” Sheftel noted. “The judges have to be vetted by a Knesset committee and, in my opinion, this should be done not only with Supreme Court justices but also with judges for local courts.”
Sheftel added that this system is practiced in the U.S. and is a proper democratic system.
“In the U.S. it is customary that a federal judge is appointed by the President subject to a hearing of the Senate Constitutional Committee,” he said. “Is there a sane person who would argue that America has no independent judiciary? Is the U.S. not an example of proper balance? Would such a hearing harm the independence of a judge after his appointment?”
Sheftel expressed hope that the other two bills, which have already been approved, will improve the current situation.
“The Judge Selection Committee today is a political committee,” he said. “Since the days of Aharon Barak it has created a Supreme Court that is composed of leftists who joined together to form a Supreme Court dictatorship. Therefore, it is entirely legitimate that the Knesset will thwart this aggressive move and back the obvious idea that the Bar Association president will be the senior representative in the committee.”
Sheftel noted that he has no doubt that a committee composed of rightists will better reflect the will of the Israeli public.
“It’s true that this move will result in a solid majority of nationalists in the Judge Selection Committee, but this is exactly the majority that represents the public, most of whom belong to the nationalist camp,” he said.