President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin lashed out on Wednesday at people who have denigrated the reputation of retired Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, who chairs the advisory committee for senior civil service appointments.
Goldberg’s was the dissenting voice that may have destroyed the chances for Moshe (Chico) Edri to become the next chief of police.
Speaking at the swearing in ceremony of 26 new judges and court registrars, Rivlin said that while it was legitimate to argue against a legal opinion, and even to be critical, the harsh comments that were made in relation to Goldberg – who publicly stated that Edri was not deserving of the role of chief of police – one could not expect a government-appointed advisory committee to be a rubber stamp.
In the heat of the controversy over Goldberg’s opinion that Edri does not qualify for the position, many baseless comments were made about the retired justice, said Rivlin. He emphasized that Goldberg and other members of the committee had the obligation, not the privilege, to clearly voice their true opinions. There could be heated disagreements among the committee members, said Rivlin, but he was convinced that whatever decision was reached by the committee was based on carefully considered professional issues. He was certain that both Goldberg and the rest of the committee were guided by what they believe to be in the best interests of the nation.
Insofar as the new judges are concerned, Rivlin urged that they show empathy and sensitivity to all the people who come before the courts and respect their dignity.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut made the point that the justice system is in the forefront of the fight for gender equality, as reflected in the fact that 13 of the 26 new judges appointed to the Magistrate’s, District, Traffic and Labor courts are women. She also referred to the high ratio of women throughout the justice system.
Within the courts, particular attention is paid to cases of domestic violence, with the aim of eliminating violence against women, she said.
In an unusual move, Hayut devoted the bulk of her address to explaining developments in the manner by which judges are appointed.
Today, lawyers who want to be judges have to go through an intensive and comprehensive barrage of interviews related to their knowledge, professionalism, experience and personality. They also have to submit to a psychological evaluation.
Hayut had no doubt that all applicants for a seat on the bench do so out of a sense of mission. “But you must all judge with a listening heart,” she told the new appointees, referencing Rivlin’s remark about empathy.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked likewise referred to change. She quoted the late Supreme Court president Moshe Landau, who when he received his first judicial appointment during the period of the British Mandate, appeared before two judges – one British and the other Jewish – and was asked a series of questions that he answered to their satisfaction, and was instantly appointed.
Shaked told the new judges that she hoped, on the one hand, they should sleep well. On the other, she said, they should have difficulty sleeping as they pondered the decisions they were making, because the absolute truth is not always reflected in the judgement, implying that the best of judges can also make faulty decisions. She quoted the late Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin, who in his farewell speech to the court acknowledged that he was not always right and that he had occasionally erred, but was alone in battling with his conscience.
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