The government will advance on Sunday a bill to weaken the Israel Bar Association (IBA) after the association on Tuesday elected as its new chairman a staunch opponent of the government's judicial reforms.
The bill proposal, which was first put forward on December 19 but has not advanced since, would establish a new council responsible for admitting Israel's lawyers onto the bar and granting them licenses to practice law, authorities that currently belong to the IBA. The IBA would only remain as a voluntary representative body for lawyers who are interested.
The bill was proposed by Likud MK Hanoch Milvetsky and five other coalition MKs.
Unlike the IBA, which is elected independently by the country's lawyers, the new council would be politically affiliated. Its makeup would include a chairman and three state-employed lawyers, all appointed by the Justice Minister; four private lawyers and one academic expert, all elected by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which is nearly always controlled by the coalition; two representatives of the finance minister; and one Regional Court justice chosen by the Supreme Court chief justice. The justice would be the only member of the council not appointed by the coalition.
Likud bill seeks to remove Bar authority
According to the bill proposal, the IBA would only remain as a voluntary representative body for lawyers who are interested.
According to its explanatory section, the bill is intended to fashion the regulation of the practice of law in a way that is similar to the regulation of accounting, where the state, and not an independent organization, is responsible for awarding licenses to practice the profession.
The decision to bring the bill up in the Sunday ministerial committee came after lawyer Amit Becher, who is a vocal opponent of the government's judicial reforms, won the election for the Bar Association, and also gained a majority in the Bar Association's national council, with 16 out of 30 seats. The Council is responsible for electing the association's two representatives on Israel's Judicial Selection Committee. The two representatives are thus likely to side with anti-reform members of the committee, and not with Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
The bill includes a clause that would entirely remove IBA representatives from the Judicial Selection Committee and from other committees responsible for electing judges for religious courts. However, Milvetsky attached a letter to the bill proposal requesting from the ministerial committee that this clause be removed, so as not to irk the opposition and protest movements.
In any case, however, if the bill passes, the IBA would be replaced by the new Council, which would be controlled by the coalition and therefore enable the coalition to insert two friendly representatives into the Judicial Selection Committee. The bill is, therefore, part of Levin's effort to tilt the balance of power in the committee towards the coalition, so as to appoint conservative judges.
According to the coalition, the bill also would not apply immediately so it does not appear as if it came directly as a result of the government's preferred candidate, Effi Nave, losing the election. The coalition did not say when it would apply.
Bills that are sponsored by private MKs (as opposed to the government or one of the Knesset's committees) are brought before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation in order for the government to express its opinion. Bills with government support usually stand a higher chance of passing into law.