Legal advisor regulation hits snag in committee, other reforms advance

Discussion of legislation regulating government legal advisors was beyond the scope of the items that a committee can address-Knesset legal advisor

Attorney Sagit Afik (photo credit: Courtesy)
Attorney Sagit Afik
(photo credit: Courtesy)

A bill to regulate government legal advisers will not be promoted at this stage, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman announced on Wednesday, but he affirmed that other judicial reforms would be advanced with discussions of a draft committee bill.

Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik, who made recommendations, stated in a letter to Rothman on Wednesday that the discussion of legislation regulating government legal advisers was outside the legal purview of the items upon which the legislative committee can propose laws; these are Basic Laws, Knesset internal affairs, the State Comptrollers and faction and party regulation.

While the committee was approaching the matter of legal advisers with a Basic Law amendment, Afik opined that it is not currently a subject connected with the Basic Laws, and therefore it is not relevant to the committee. This topic would be more suitable as a private or government bill rather than a committee bill.

While Rothman didn’t agree with Afik’s position, he accepted the recommendation. He said that the matters of the Override Clause, changes to the judge selection committee composition and removal of the Reasonableness Clause would be advanced as a draft bill for discussion in the committee on Sunday.

The law committee has been holding sessions on the reforms since they were initially proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin on January 4. The sessions have been marred, first by opposition Knesset members and activists, and then by a total opposition boycott of the sessions over a delay in presentation of the legal adviser’s stand on the judicial reform plan.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds last Sunday’s cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, as Justice Minister Yariv Levin looks on.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds last Sunday’s cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, as Justice Minister Yariv Levin looks on. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

What is Levin proposing?

According to Levin’s proposals, legal advisers would have to support the legal position of the government, rather than give their own opinion. The Override Clause would allow a simple majority in the Knesset to overturn High Court of Justice rulings.

The Reasonableness Clause is a principle that allows the High Court to intervene in administrative cases that are beyond what a responsible and reasonable authority would engage in. Levin’s plan is to eliminate the clause, which contributed much to the High Court’s recent order to remove Shas Chairman Arye Deri from his ministerial posts. The plan also calls for an overhaul of the judicial selection committee, giving politicians more power to select judges.

These reform proposals have proved controversial, with Saturday protests in Tel Aviv seeing tens of thousands of demonstrators speaking out against the plan. New sectors of the Israeli economy joined the protests this week, with thousands of tech workers launching protests and hundreds of academics speaking out.

Kan reported on Wednesday that Rothman had gone to visit the US in part to rehabilitate the image of the reforms with American audiences. While officially he had flown to participate in former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo's book launch, he was set to hold a series of meetings with Jewish communities and American journalists.