Just a few days before the Judicial Selection Committee assembly hearing on Thursday, Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Sunday demanded private legal representation before the High Court of Justice instead of the attorney-general.
Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara should notify the High Court of his request and new representation should be given adequate time to prepare, Levin wrote in a Sunday morning letter.
The Yesh Atid party, one of the petitioners in the case, said that it would not agree to delay the hearing because of the impact on the legal system.
"Justice Minister Yariv Levin will do everything to not convene the committee for the appointment of judges and fulfill his responsibilities as minister," said Yesh Atid. "Thousands of cases are piled up, citizens are harmed, but Levin is only interested in one thing - destroying the court, making everything political and tearing apart Israeli society."
The Judicial Selection Committee appoints and promotes judges, and Levin has refused to convene the committee until it has been reformed. There is a dearth of judges in Israel's overloaded judicial system, with Baharav-Miara reminding Levin on Thursday that there would be 53 open judge positions by the end of the year -- including two High Court justices.
The justice minister said that the attorney general’s legal position was in extreme contradiction to that of the government, necessitating different representation.
Israel's justice minister clashes again with attorney-general
The second petitioner, the NGO Movement for Quality Government in Israel, said in response to Levin's request that the case was a simple administrative petition on the justice minister's failure to act within his authority and the law, which had to be represented by Baharav-Miara.
"The basic rational established in a long series of judgments in the past is that the government is represented by the attorney-general and her alone," said MQG.
Levin’s demand came after a week of public correspondence between him and Baharav-Miara about how she would be representing him against petitions on his refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee.
Levin wrote on Sunday that he had nothing to say to Baharav-Miara‘s Thursday letter, but to repeat everything he had already written on Wednesday.
A-G 'trampling on Levin's right for legal representation'
The justice minister had claimed that the attorney-general was "trampling" on his basic right to legal representation by siding with the petitioners in the case. He said that the hearing couldn't be seen as a proper legal proceeding if both sides were arguing the same positions against the respondent.
Baharav-Miara said on Thursday that her office had explored legal options with Levin in an August 13 meeting, but that there was no legal legitimacy to the refusal to convene the committee. She said that his positions had been included in the court filings on Wednesday.
Levin said that Baharav-Miara had not accurately represented his positions in the filings, though she disputed this. Since the meeting, Levin allegedly had been in the dark about the proceedings and was only informed that Baharav-Miara had decided to represent him last Thursday. Baharav-Miara claimed her office had been in constant contact with Levin.
The attorney-general had told the court that Levin was not requesting outside representation. Levin had told the court that he had agreed to her representation if she properly represented his position.
Levin attacked the attorney-general for what he said was a pattern of interference in government policy. Baharav-Miara vehemently rejected this claim, asserting that her office had helped the government in thousands of cases, dozens of laws, and dozens of appointments, but their aid could only continue within the boundaries of the law.
Recent requests by the government to postpone the reasonableness standard law hearing were rejected on August 22 by the court. The attorney-general had allowed Levin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the government outside representation given the sensitivity of the judicial reform law hearing and the conflict of opinions between her and the Israeli leadership. Attorney Ilan Bombach had requested the September 12 hearing be delayed so he could have more time to prepare.