Avi Himi (left) won the election as the Israel bar association’s president.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Avi Himi won election as the Israel bar association’s president on Wednesday over opponent Zion Amir by a vote of 10,144 to 8,634.
Himi’s election may restore the traditional alliance between the lawyers’ association and the Supreme Court in selecting judges, an alliance which his predecessor, Efi Nave
, had severed in favor of an alliance with then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked. Whereas Shaked appointed a record number of conservative justices, a restoration of the bar association-Supreme Court alliance might end that trend.
Acting Justice Minister Amir Ohana, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Shaked all rushed to praise Himi’s victory.
Turnout from the 67,000-80,000 (depending on how one counts) members of the lawyers’ association was not particularly high, following Nave’s scandal-filled tenure.
Nave was forced out when the “sex for judgeship” affair broke, for which he is under criminal investigation. The alleged scheme included Nave promoting two judicial candidates in exchange for sexual favors.
Before that point, due to his nearly complete power over the bar association and alliances with key politicians, Nave had managed to stay in office despite a prior indictment for committing fraud against Ben-Gurion Airport customs officials. In that case, he allegedly snuck a woman past the customs officials to avoid any record that they crossed through customs together, which might negatively impact his ongoing divorce proceedings.
Nave was considered close to Shaked and key to her conservative-leaning judicial revolution.
What was a three-way race became a two-way battle last week, when Avishai Reinman dropped out to support Himi against Amir. This late-game shift may have been critical, as Himi won a close race and – up until that point – some polls showed Amir leading.
Amir is the more colorful and charismatic of the two, handling the case of former disgraced president Moshe Katsav, portions of the Duma case and other high profile cases.
Himi, who does not publicly display Amir’s fiery wrath for those opposing him in the courtroom but has also handled high profile cases, is a confident public speaker and a consummate networker.
In addition, Himi had the advantage of being the acting president of the bar association following Nave’s sudden scandal-forced resignation in January. This allowed him to take advantage of free major media-saturated platforms – like the recent massive swearing in ceremony of new lawyers – while serving as the acting president.
Himi now gets to choose two members of the nine-member judicial selection committee, which appoints the country’s judges and Supreme Court justices.
In the near future, the Supreme Court will rule on fateful issues before it, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public corruption cases to settlements to African migrants to balancing Judaism and democracy issues.
Leading into the election, Himi told The Jerusalem Post
that he strongly opposes any reform to give the Knesset veto power over the Supreme Court which is perceived as being on the judicial branch and directed at weakening its independence.
“I am completely against giving the Knesset the power, with a regular majority, to legislate laws which are against the values set down in the Basic Laws,” said Himi. “This possibility would undermine the status of these critical laws and the foundations of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
He added that he was not opposed to recalibrating the balance between the branches of government in a non-politicized way, such that there could be a circumvention bill, “which would be used in cases that were the exception to the exception based on a broad bipartisan basis and with a special majority of at least 70 Knesset members.”
Some justices and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit have found this idea less objectionable as it would typically require some support from opposition MKs – an indication of wide consensus on an issue.
Himi also appears to oppose Ohana’s ideas about abandoning the current judicial selection committee model in favor of greater Knesset and political control over the appointments process.
He told the Post
, “Judicial appointments must be governed solely by professional considerations and not based on political ideology. Therefore, the Knesset cannot be solely in charge of the appointments process.”
Rather, he said that, “the current committee for selecting judges strikes the right balance. It raises the banner of professionalism and prevents politicization.”
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