The Judicial Selection Committee convened on Sunday to discuss the appointment
of two new Supreme Court justices, but ended without the nine-member committee
reaching a consensus over candidates.
The committee did not even agree to
appoint justices on a temporary basis to alleviate the growing backlog of cases
at the Supreme Court.
Judicial selection reforms pass initial votes
Noam Sohlberg, a Jerusalem District court judge,
was on the list of Supreme Court candidates, along with Tel Aviv District Court
Judge Dvora Berliner and Jerusalem District Court Judge Zvi Zylbertal.
is expected that a new list of candidates will be drawn up and the committee
will reconvene in several weeks in another attempt to appoint
Before Sunday’s meeting, Environmental Protection Minister
Gilad Erdan, a member of the selection committee, had expressed optimism that it
would be fruitful.
“I hope we can get at least seven of the nine
committee members to select at least two justices,” Erdan said. To be selected
as a Supreme Court justice, a candidate requires the votes of seven of the nine
member of the Judicial Selection Committee.
Five of those members belong
to the legal profession.
These are the three Supreme Court justices
(Dorit Beinisch, Miriam Naor, and Asher Dan Grunis) and the two representatives
of the Israel Bar Association, Rachel Ben-Ari and Pini Marinsky.
remaining four members are politicians, of which two are cabinet members –
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan
– and two are MKs, David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and Uri Ariel (National
Also before the committee convened on Sunday evening, Ariel said
the Supreme Court was under pressure because of a lack of justices, and so it
was important that new ones be selected this week.
The Supreme Court,
like the rest of the judiciary, is severely understaffed and faces a growing
mountain of cases. That situation has worsened since the justice Ayala
Procaccia’s retirement in April and justice Edmund Levi’s in October.
addition, Justice Yoram Danziger has been on leave since the summer while police
question him in connection with the corruption case against Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo
Supreme Court President Beinisch had been expected to vote for
Sohlberg’s appointment on Sunday, but in the past few days sources around the
Beinisch hinted that she may have become less inclined to do so following the
growing storm over proposed legislation to alter how justices are
One of those pieces of legislation, dubbed the “Sohlberg Bill,”
would change the way the two representatives of the Israel Bar Association are
elected to the Judicial Selection Committee, so that one is a member of the
Bar’s more conservative opposition faction.
Critics on the Left have
slammed that bill, which passed its preliminary reading last week, as an attempt
to pave the way for Sohlberg’s appointment to the Supreme
Meanwhile, over the weekend, 51 academics and intellectuals
including writer Yoram Kaniuk, artist David Tartakover and education professor
Chaim Adler signed a letter to Beinisch asking her not to join in any judicial
selection committee deal that would allow Sohlberg to be
Sohlberg is considered a conservative judge and has also been
criticized by the Left because he lives in Alon Shvut, a settlement in Gush
Etzion south of Jerusalem. He advised previous attorneys-general Yosef Harish,
Michael Ben-Yair and Elyakim Rubinstein, was appointed a judge in the Jerusalem
Magistrate’s Court in 1998 and then to the district court in 2005.
second bone of contention over the list of Supreme Court justice candidates is
that it does not include any Sephardic judges.
Both right-wing MKs and
left-wing NGOs voiced their support this week for Sephardic candidates to be put
forward for the Supreme Court. Following Levi’s retirement, there are no
Sephardic justices on the court.
MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) accused
the Supreme Court of being a “clique” that selected justices on a “friend bring
a friend” basis, and said the judiciary did not reflect the composition of
Against this background, speculation has mounted in the past few
days that Beinisch will not oppose the proposal of former attorney-general
Menahem Mazuz, who is Sephardic, as a candidate for the court.
before Sunday’s Judicial Selection Committee meeting, Ariel said that at least
one Supreme Court justice should be Sephardic.
“There are plenty of
Sephardic judges currently serving in the district courts who are worthy of
being elected to the Supreme Court bench,” the MK said.
The new list of
candidates for the Supreme Court is likely now to include at least one Sephardic
Following Sunday's committee meeting, attorney Nachi Eyal,
director of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which has supported the
“Sohlberg Bill,” slammed the absence of judicial appointments.
no sense in rejecting candidates when for more than half a year the court has
had to work with a reduced staff,” Eyal said. “The court's workload will only
increase and public confidence in the system will be reduced.”