Beinisch hails judges at swearing-in ceremony

Peres emphasizes need to keep the Supreme Court independent and "healthy."

February 22, 2012 05:19
3 minute read.
Israel's Supreme Court

Israeli Supreme Court 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)


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Last month, when Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch attended the swearing-in ceremony of 21 new judges, it was presumed that this would be the final such ceremony she would attend while still in office; she is due to retire on February 28, when she will celebrate her 70th birthday.

However, when five judges were sworn in at President Shimon Peres’s official residence on Tuesday, she was there.

Usually swearing-ceremonies for judges are not held in two consecutive months, but since some of the judges were joining the Supreme Court, this was one of the exceptions to the rule.

The five judges were new Supreme Court justices Zvi Zylbertal and Noam Sohlberg; Ilan Itach, who joined the National Labor Court; Carmi Musak, who joined the Jerusalem District Court; and lawyer Tal Lahiani-Shaham, who was appointed to the Southern District Magistrate’s Court. A sixth judge, Irit Weinberg-Notovich, who has been appointed to the Central District Court, was not present. Lahiani-Shaham was the only member of the group who was actually elevated to the bench; the rest of the judges served in other courts prior to their current roles, and simply went up in rank.

Israeli judges are not sworn in in the traditional sense; they simply make a declaration in which they pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and to its laws, to dispense justice fairly, not to pervert the law and to show no favor.

Usually it is the court registrar who introduces the new judges to the president of the state, the Supreme Court president, the National Labor Court president and the justice minister, but on this occasion, Court Registrar Moshe Gal partially relinquished this duty and left the honor to Beinisch.

She had particular praise for the two new Supreme Court judges, whom she has known for several years. She also apologized to Sohlberg for the distress he suffered due to the controversy surrounding his appointment. He and his family live in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, and some believed he would be too lenient in cases involving right-wing settlers.

In congratulating the new judges, she warned them that they were under constant public surveillance, and urged them to contribute to the courts in which they served, especially the Supreme Court. She entreated them to help that court maintain its status in Israel and the world and to facilitate its contribution to Israeli society.

Peres, meanwhile, emphasized the need to safeguard the integrity and independence of the courts so their officers could continue to mete out justice.

It was essential that judges be not only wise, but also sensitive, patient and tolerant, he said.

The president used the human body as a metaphor for the court system, saying that cancer and Alzheimers could take hold only when there was a collapse of the system. Prevention of illness is more important than a cure, he said, advocating dialogue over disputes.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman observed that the time for the judges’ appointment could not be more appropriate, because the Torah reading a week earlier was Jethro, in which the Israelites received the Ten Commandments.

This past week’s reading was Mishpatim, in which there is a series of laws on how people should relate to each other in specific circumstances, he said, and next week’s reading is Teruma, which symbolizes the contribution to justice.

Zylbertal, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, called Beinisch a courageous and enlightened leader who had captained the judiciary with confidence, even though there had been periods during her term of office in which it seemed that the ship she was steering was being buffeted in stormy seas.

Much of what Beinisch has done to uphold and improve the integrity of the courts remains unknown to the general public, said Zylbertal.

Among those attending the ceremony were former attorneys-general, as well as past and present members of the Supreme Court, including Beinisch’s immediate predecessor, Prof. Aharon Barak.

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