Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit suffered a setback on Monday when the Jerusalem Labor Court postponed to Tuesday hearing their emergency motion to end the strike by state prosecutors.
Late Sunday night Shaked and Mandelblit took the radical move of employing the private law firm of Nachum Feinberg to file a motion with the court to compel the union to break its nine-day-old strike protesting moves by Shaked and the ministry’s oversight czar.
They had hoped that the court would rule in their favor by 3 p.m. Monday, but the union requested a one-day extension for drafting a detailed response and to allow their president, Limor Peled, to return from abroad for the hearing.
Judge Eyal Shalom Avrahami pushed back at the emergency motion, noting that if it were so urgent, it should have been filed nine days ago when the strike began.
The postponement might not mean their emergency motion will be defeated, but it is a blow to Shaked and Mandelblit, since their claim that irreversible damage is occurring on a daily basis is now weakened and they might face the prospect of drawn out negotiations.
Shaked and Mandelblit were put in the awkward position of hiring 36 lawyers from an outside law firm known for their expertise in labor law, since the Justice Ministry’s lawyers who would normally represent them in court are participating in the strike.
The union slammed oversight czar Hila Gerstl for seeking to single out individual prosecutors for criticism and for going beyond her mandate in questioning the prosecution office on issues of professional discretion. Gerstl’s office was created at the end of 2013 to promote greater accountability for prosecutorial decisions.
Union members say that this level of criticism is unnecessary, since the courts, the state comptroller and others already critique prosecutors. They say this will harm their independence and make it easier for public officials to engage in corruption.
In contrast, Shaked, former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein (who founded Gerstl’s office) and many politicians say that Gerstl’s office is needed to provide balance and oversight of prosecutors, who have sometimes abused their discretion in the past, whether through delays or by being overly aggressive.
In a separate battle, the state prosecution and Gerstl’s office are fighting before the High Court of Justice over whether her report slamming prosecutors’ conduct of relations with their forensic institute, including naming individual prosecutors, can be made public.
The justice minister said Sunday night, “I am saddened that despite the major efforts invested in dialogue with the prosecutors’ committee regarding the management of the oversight czar’s office, the prosecutors have decided not to end their strike.
The prosecutors’ strike is unjustified and groundless. Failure of the prosecutors to appear at hearings is causing major harm to the public and the state.”
Mandelblit echoed Shaked’s statement late Sunday, stating, “The prosecutors strike unjustifiably and seriously harms the work of the prosecution and the representation of the state in the various courts. I call on the prosecutors to return their regular work without delay. It is my understanding that it is certainly possible to address appropriately the concerns and requests of the prosecutors by way of negotiation, as has occurred until now while ordinary work continues.”