Reservation votes on judge selection bill to continue Sunday

Two reservations removing factional diversity were approved by the committee and will be voted on by the Knesset during the second reading.

 THE KNESSET Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, headed by MK Simcha Rothman (center), holds a recent meeting.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
THE KNESSET Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, headed by MK Simcha Rothman (center), holds a recent meeting.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Votes on reservations on the judicial reform's Judicial Selection Committee bill were set to continue on Sunday after Wednesday's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee sessions stretched late into the night.

The committee rejected 1,900 reservations out of the 5,400 submitted in recent days.

Two reservations removing factional diversity were approved by the committee and would be attached to the bill and voted on by the Knesset during the second reading.

The current version of the bill requires each political representative on the appointment panel to be from a different faction. Opposition and coalition members had objected to the inclusion of factional diversity quotas. The attached reservations were submitted by Likud MK Ariel Kallner and Likud MK Moshe Saada.

"It is not possible for different parties to receive one representative in the same way, so I propose that the government decide for the coalition and the Knesset for its members," said Likud MK Moshe Saada. "The government will change and it's correct that the majority faction will have more representation."

 MK Simcha Rothman, Head of the Constitution Committee, at a committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK Simcha Rothman, Head of the Constitution Committee, at a committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Kallner said that "The goal is to create diversity, but it cannot be that small and large parties will receive the same level of representation."

Opposition members such as Hadash Ta'al MK Ofer Cassif argued that not only would the coalition have control, but now it would have a partisan majority.

Yisrael Beytenu ML Oded Forer said that the acceptance of the factional diversity reservations raised a new issue, and the committee had to decide on it before the Knesset could vote.

The committee receives hundreds of reservations

When other opposition members tried to support the new issue raised by Forer, Law Committee chairman Simcha Rothman asked them to submit their claims in the form of hundreds of reservations.

The opposition asked the committee's legal advisor to weigh in on Rothman's request serving as a punitive measure. Rothman was also upset about the way that the opposition was raising issues and reservations.

"Every MK has the right to submit a new issue," said committee legal adviser Dr. Gur Bligh. "There is an understanding that this power is not misused by all parties because it can lead to absurd situations. This like all parliamentary instruments is a delicate game. In the end, it's a tool that, like many tools, is designed to ensure that irrelevant things don't get in and is sometimes used for a filibuster."

Throughout the night, MKs protested against the process of the votes. Due to the large amount of reservations, Rothman had decided to use a special procedure to group the objections by subject.

Rothman had also called to discuss the substantial reservations, which Labor MK Gilad Kariv argued was an unacceptable decision to make.

"If it was about introducing checks and balances in the predatory proposal, a substantive discussion should have been held," said Kariv. "We are not ready for you to determine for us what is a substantial reservation and what is not, and you will not cherry-pick from our proposals."

Rothman said that he had given the opposition to present their explanations on their reservations, but many had left the chamber in protest.

"I turned to factions and MKs who submitted substantial reservations to explain them and they chose not to do so," said Rothman. "Therefore, the arguments of reservations on behalf of the opposition are over."

The Judge Selection Committee bill would change the composition of the panel that appoints High Court of Justice and lower court jurists.

The committee is currently represented by the High Court president, two justices, the Justice Minister, another cabinet minister, two MKs and two Bar Association representatives.

The bill would remove the Bar representatives, and in their place add another cabinet minister, the Law Committee chairman, two opposition MKs and two coalition MKs. For lower court appointments, the justices would be replaced by magistrate and district court presidents, creating a parrallel panel.

Voting for High Court candidates would be by simple majority rather than seven out of nine as the current system. Lower court representatives would need threshold of seven supports according to the new bill.

After the appointment of two High Court justices in a Knesset term, limitations would be placed on the voting. On the third candidate, an opposition member would be required to support the appointment. This requirement would be expanded to also need a judicial representative on the fourth High Court candidate that term.