Supreme Court registrar Liat Benmelech on Monday turned down a request for the top court to reconsider a December 23 ruling it made concerning an almost three-year old Ethiopian-Israeli youngster. In doing so, she preserved the court’s decision that the toddler is to remain with his non-Ethiopian adoptive parents, with whom he has already spent most of his life, and not with his biological family.
The December ruling involved a decision by seven justices voting 5-2 in favor of the adoptive parents. It reversed an August ruling on an appeal heard by three justices in which the decision favored the biological mother.
Monday’s decision by the Benmelech – who as registrar is the gatekeeper for certain motions before they are granted a hearing – meant there could be no further appeals to the Supreme Court concerning its rulings.
The child’s biological mother had on January 13 requested an extension of time for filing the new appeal. A biological aunt and uncle filed a separate request for an extension on January 19.
Benmelech noted that the extension requests had been made after the 15-day deadline came and went.
She also said that “the appeal process cannot go on forever,” noting that one appeal against the Supreme Court itself was the “end of the line” unless there was some bizarre situation that was “hard to imagine,” involving, for example, game-changing evidence that did not previously exist.
The original appeal concerning the ruling by the three Supreme Court justices was rare. Exceptions occur only in extraordinary circumstances, such as unprecedented situations or cases with immense constitutional implications.
Despite interventions by Yesh Atid MK Shimon Solomon and two Ethiopian-linked NGOs, the court heeded the advice of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and social workers who said that “one cannot turn back the clock and tear the child away from the only family he has ever had.” It also implicitly criticized some of the intervening groups as taking overly “ethnocentric overtones” when the key issues were the “best interests of the child” and what “his future” would look like as opposed to focusing too much on his past.
The five justices who voted to grant custody to the adoptive parents on December 23 were Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Esther Hayot, Salim Jabraun and Neal Hendel. The two voting in favor of the biological family were Edna Arbel and Yitzhak Amit.
In a separate vote, the court had rejected by 4-3 the possibility of an “open adoption,” meaning one in which the biological family could maintain relations with the child even while he was being raised by his adoptive parents.
The August decision by the three-justice panel had ordered the child returned to his biological aunt and uncle at the request of his biological mother, who has been deemed mentally unstable. However, the aunt and uncle were found by social services to be inexperienced and lacking the economic means to raise him properly.
The reversal by the wider panel of justices actually represented a return to the ruling in favor of the adoptive family by the District Court and the Family Court.