Academics line up for and against Friedmann

Heated battle between justice minister and Supreme Court President Beinisch takes on new angle.

supreme court 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
supreme court 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Leading legal academics lined up on Monday in conflicting petitions of opposition and support for the innovations Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann is attempting to introduce into the judicial system in an effort to weaken the powers of the Supreme Court. Those who signed the letter criticizing Friedmann included Tel Aviv University professors Eyal Benvenisti, Daphne Barak-Erez, Haim Ganaz and law faculty dean Hanoch Dagan; Hebrew University professors David Enoch, Moshe Hirsch, Eyal Zamir, Claude Klein, Mordechai Kremnitzer and David Kretzmer; Haifa University law faculty dean Ali Saltzberger and Professor Emmanuel Gross; and Bar-Ilan University professor Yedidya Stern. Among those supporting Friedmann were professors Amnon Rubinstein, Shimon Sheetret, Tamar Gidron, Sinai Deutch and Moshe Bar-Niv. According to the Friedmann critics, "The aim of criticism and proposed reforms should be to strengthen the standing of the judicial system as an institution and a social arena in which decisions are taken on the basis of arguments in favor of the general good or individual rights. In our professional opinion, the collection of reforms proposed lately by the Justice Minister will not achieve these aims. The outcome will be to strengthen the influence, direct and indirect, of the political echelon on the judicial system." The academics pointed out, as an example of increasing the power of the politicians over the courts, Friedmann's plan to change the composition of the Judges' Election Committee by adding two more representatives, the head of the Knesset Law Committee and an academic, and replacing two of the three Supreme Court representatives with representatives from the district and magistrate's court. They also accused Friedmann of carrying out his changes hastily and unilaterally, without allowing public debate. "Your style of conduct indicates, to our sorrow, lack of respect for the Supreme Court and the law enforcement institutions," they charged. Rubinstein told the Internet news site Ynet, "Despite the impression that Friedmann has been abandoned by the academic world, we represent it just as much as Tel Aviv or Haifa universities." Sheetret said, "We want to sever the personal resentments surrounding this affair and raise the discussion to a professional level. Despite what has been said, [Friedmann's] reforms are not meant to undermine the rule of law but the contrary." Deutch said, "I am not a great admirer of the Supreme Court in recent years. Nowhere else in the world does the court intervene as much as it does in Israel. There is an unreasonable degree of cooperation among the Supreme Court, the state prosecution, the police and the media. I am not against the Supreme Court, but it is acting against itself."