Two judicial reform bills reached the Knesset plenum on Monday, regarding the process of selecting judges and judicial review pertaining to Basic Laws.
Both items are committee bills, sent to the Knesset after a 9-7 vote in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last Monday.
The bills are also both amendments to preexisting laws. The first would amend the Basic Law: Judiciary, and a companion bill would alter the Courts Law, which sets the regulations for the courts.
The main focus of the drafts was changing the Judicial Selection Committee’s composition.
The current Judicial Selection Committee has the justice minister as its chairman, another cabinet minister, two members of the Israel Bar Association, the Supreme Court president and two other Supreme Court justices who are replaced every three years. Two MKs are also on the panel, traditionally one from the ruling coalition and one from the opposition.
The proposal would remove the two Bar representatives from the committee and replace them with another cabinet minister and the chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
In addition, the judges on the committee would have to be retired and selected by agreement between the justice minister and Supreme Court president.
The tradition of an MK from the opposition being appointed to the panel would be codified. The opposition factions would select the MK in a manner to be established in Knesset statutes.
The bill also contains gender quotas, requiring at least one of the judges, one of the MKs and one of the ministers to be women.
In addition to the composition of the committee, the legal quorum for committee meetings would be changed from seven members to five. The panel, which votes for judges through majority opinion, would no longer count abstentions against the majority.
The bills also add restrictions on judicial review of Basic Laws. Judicial review is when a court strikes down legislation that it determines is in contradiction with a law that has legal supremacy.
Israel lacks a formal written constitution, but it follows quasi-constitutional Basic Laws. The High Court of Justice normally does not interfere with the Basic Laws, but it hears petitions challenging an untoward process in which a Basic Law amendment or bill was legislated and other abuses of the Knesset’s constitutive authority.
The bill would restrict the High Court from accepting petitions, let alone reviewing articles pertaining to Basic Laws. It would not be able to address the validity of a Basic Law, directly or indirectly.
Another bill, currently in discussion in the Law Committee, would further restrict the use of judicial review to a full bench of justices in unanimous agreement.