Some 300 people crowded into the lobby of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem to witness the changing of the guard in the National Labor Court, as President Nili Arad, the latter’s first woman president, moved aside to make way for Judge Yigal Plitman.
There was a swearing-in ceremony for 25 judges and four registrars, primarily for magistrate’s courts around the country, but also for labor, district and traffic courts.
Some of the judges appointed to magistrate’s courts will also sit on the bench in family courts.
Arad took up the position of president of the National Labor Court in November 2010 after her predecessor, the US-born Steve Adler (who was also present at Thursday evening’s ceremony), retired three months ahead of his 70th birthday, the mandatory retirement age for judges, to enable Arad, who was deputy president of the court, to reach the pinnacle of her legal career. Arad was approaching her 67th birthday and would have missed out on being president if Adler had waited for his own birthday before retiring. The regulations stipulate that only a person who will serve for at least three years can become president of the court.
President Shimon Peres, who was present to sign all the appointments, lauded Arad for her ability to maintain the fine balance between the government, employers and the Histadrut labor federation.
In handling difficult disputes in the way that she did, Arad had brought great honor to the state, Peres said.
Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis, noting the many new judges (of which there was a preponderance of women), said that in the past, there had been too few to handle the backlog of case files. In 2012, he said, the backlog had been reduced by 20 percent, but in 2013 more cases had been opened than in 2012, so the new judges would have their work cut out for them. The pursuit of justice was not easy, and began with personal example, he told them. Grunis applauded Arad’s contribution to the development of Israel’s legal system, adding that the National Labor Court had gone through a dynamic period on her watch, with many changes in labor relations.
He was confident that Plitman, who has 25 years experience in the labor courts and whose previous positions included head of the legal department of the National Insurance Institute, would also leave his imprint on the court’s presidency.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, referring to attempts to weaken the status of the Supreme Court and the National Labor Court, pledged to defend both.
In reviewing Arad’s impressive legal career, Livni said that Arad had changed the labor relations lexicon and stopped calling an employer a ma’avid in Hebrew, because it had the connotations of a slave master, and instead used the word ma’asik, a person who gives out work.
Livni commended Arad for fighting for workers’ rights.
Arad, Grunis and Livni each told the new judges that while giving rulings in accordance with the law, they must act humanely and remember that the people in their courts were human beings.
Arad said that the labor courts differed from all other courts in that they dealt with all the interests and issues of employers and employees, from the cradle to beyond the grave.
Plitman told the new judges that they must approach every case with a sense of mission to judge fairly and justly while staying focused on the key elements of the case.