Israel's Supreme Court
Israel's Supreme CourtIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Newly revealed protocols from a meeting last year show that Supreme Court justices and senior officials in the legal system have a list of Israeli judges who are unfit to be on the bench. However, the judges in question have not been forced to step down due to fears for their pensions.

The protocols were among the documents released following a lengthy legal battle by the Land of Israel Legal Forum to publicize the dealings of the meetings of the committee tasked with appointing judges.

During the meeting last year, then-Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said, “We have a list of judges who we could cause to retire if we promised them pensions.” Justice Asher Grunis warned that the judges in question were a “ticking bomb,” and that the public would pay the price if they remained on the bench.

Grunis noted that many of the judges could not be coerced to step down due to the hit they would take to their pensions if they agreed to early retirement.

Leaders of the Land of Israel Legal Forum said the protocols prove they were right to fight to expose the committee’s decision-making process.

“This is a serious perversion of judgment and a matter that should cause anyone who cares for the legal system to lose sleep,” said Legal Forum head Nachi Eyal. “We will not be silent until the system deals with the matter, and prevents situations where justice is delayed or perverted due to judges who do not belong on the bench.”

The publication of the protocols is a major step forward in the battle for the public’s right to information, Eyal stated.

Eyal and the Legal Forum began the struggle to make the committee’s decisions public in 2006, when the then-manager of the courts, Boaz Okon, responded to an appeal for information with a refusal, saying, “The committee’s meetings are secret, and there is no room to make them public.”

The Legal Forum ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that transparency is particularly important when it comes to the legal system and the criteria by which judges are chosen. Transparency would increase the public’s trust in the court system, the group argued.

The Supreme Court rejected the suit, but Justice Elyakim Rubenstein ordered the Committee for the Selection of Judges to publish whatever protocols it could. After the Legal Forum threatened the committee with another round in court, it released the first documents in recent weeks.