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Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Monday declared before Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann that "the intention of reducing the prerogatives of the High Court of Justice and preventing it from dealing with all of these issues constitutes a direct blow to the democratic character of the State of Israel, a blow to the substantive democracy that has been built here and is the pride of the state."
Beinisch was speaking at the president's residence during the swearing-in ceremony for three new judges, including Supreme Court Justice Hanan Meltzer, the first justice to be appointed from the private law sector in several decades.
Among the issues that Beinisch maintained the High Court would continue to adjudicate were the legality of government actions, the obligation of the authorities to act according to their legal prerogatives and within the framework of the law, the proportionality of actions that harm individual rights and whether or not Knesset legislation violates the basic laws.
The High Court has been under fire by many critics, led by Friedmann, who claim that by dealing with all these issues, it trespasses on the prerogatives of the executive and legislative branches of government.
Friedmann has let it be known that he intends to pass legislation restricting the issues that the High Court will be able to hear, restricting its right to overrule legislation and restricting the right of the public to petition the court for redress.
Regarding the issue of "standing," that is, the right to petition the High Court, Beinisch said, "We must remember and know that the High Court can only continue to fulfill its judicial responsibilities if its doors are open wide, even if just so that petitions may be filed to it to protect the weak and needy whose rights have been injured or to safeguard the rule of law."
But Beinisch also complimented Friedmann for his achievements as head of the Judge's Election Committee. She stated that under his stewardship, the committee had elected dozens of lowers court judges and two Supreme Court justices within a few months.
Friedmann did not respond directly to Beinisch's comments. He said that one way of lightening the heavy workload of every serving judge was by appointing more of them. But there were also procedural ways to help speed up the judicial process, he said. Friedman said he would initiate legislation to expand the prerogatives of individual judges in appeal cases and to appoint two judges, rather than three as is now the practice, to hear more complicated appeal cases.
In his speech, President Shimon Peres tried to dampen the flames in the relations between Friedmann and Beinisch. "The test," he said, "is not only in the maintenance of clear separation between the branches of government, but also the prevention of disputes and the application of sensors and softening material to those points where the different branches inevitably meet."
In addition to Meltzer, two lower court judges Hiam Karavani (Northern District juvenile court) and Yoel Eden (Eilat Magistrate's Court) were sworn in.
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