The Israel Bar Association submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the reasonableness standard bill that passed in the Knesset on Monday, joining a barrage of petitions from NGOs and public interest groups.
The petition called for the amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary, to be repealed, or to consider why the provisions of the legislation shouldn't come into effect only with the following Knesset.
The Bar, which represents at least 77,200 Israeli attorneys, reasoned that the bill is part of a broader effort to fundamentally alter the legal system and cause irreversible damage to the ability to maintain a rule of law and separation of powers. The bill needed to be understood in the context of the other judicial reform provisions that were already in process, and a Basic Law amendment passed at the beginning of the year that allowed Shas chairman Arye Deri to become a minister despite his criminal convictions.
Bill meant to immunize politicians, Bar charges
The bill passed on Monday limited the use of judicial review against extremely unreasonable administrative decisions made by the government, the prime minister, or ministers.
The purpose of the law, the Bar contended, was to "immunize" the heads of the executive authority from acting within the bounds of reason. It created a "blank check" for corruption, as these officials no longer had to explain their reasoning.
The government could also appoint and dismiss officials without providing an explanation, which would crush the independence of professional bureaucrats and legal advisers, explained the Bar. Those included in such appointments would be politicians like Deri, who had already acted corruptly in office.
The reasonableness bill should be repealed on the grounds that it served as an abuse of the constitutional authority of the Knesset, according to the petition. The bill went against the fabric of constitutional norms -- Basic Law: The Judiciary is supposed to serve as a framework for the general powers, responsibilities, and structure of the courts, and was created so that it would eventually be adopted into a formal constitution. The Bar argued that the law was created to extract immediate political benefit, not out of a genuine advancement of the constitutional process.
The petition held that the legislative process was faulty, given that it was advanced as a committee bill when it should have been a private bill. Committee laws are usually for technical matters and do not need to go through a preliminary reading and a following 45-day waiting period. The OMETZ movement also filed a petition on the matter on Tuesday, arguing among other things that there was a lack of in-depth discussions in the Knesset committee about the law.
The Bar said that the lawyer's group was impacted by the passing of the law because it harmed the legal profession and the organization which sought to protect the rule of law, human rights, and the fundamental values of the State of Israel. Amit Becher, head of the association, also listed himself as the second petitioner in the filing, claiming to represent much of the profession after winning 73% of the vote in recent Bar elections.
The National Council on Sunday announced that it would be backing a petition against the restriction of the reasonableness standard, which came after Becher announced his intention to appeal to the High Court in an association conference on Thursday. The National Council said that it would back the legal campaign with the Bar's budget.
The Bar joined petitions that were filed mere hours after the passing of the reasonableness standard bill on Monday. The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, Civil Democracy Movement, Darkenu, and Smoke Free Israel filed petitions, containing similar arguments against the legislative process and abuse of constitutional authority.
Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.