Chief justice bolsters democracy

Imposing higher fees on "public petitioners" may keep them from going to court.

August 20, 2012 17:54
Supreme Court President Grunis, Peres

Supreme Court President Grunis, Peres_370. (photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO )

Prior to his appointment as Supreme Court president, Justice Asher Dan Grunis was widely billed as an opponent of the court’s judicial activism. Last week, he finally justified that reputation: In one single ruling, he did more to stem the tide of so-called public petitions than any individual or group since former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak opened the gates to such petitions more than three decades ago.

Until the 1980s, Israel’s justice system followed the same rules as other Western democracies: To petition the Supreme Court in its role as High Court of Justice, the petitioner had to have a direct personal interest in the case. But after joining the court in 1978, Barak soon persuaded his fellow justices to abolish that rule, known as “standing.” Instead, the court began allowing anyone at all to petition it on any issue. Thus was born the “public petition”: a petition filed by a nongovernmental organization that wants the court to overturn government policy, without any need to show that any specific individual has been harmed by that policy.


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