Former judges, politicians blast Justice Minister Friedmann's plans for court system

Former MK Yossi Sarid accuses Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of doing everything possible to delegitimize the law enforcement system.

friedmann 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
friedmann 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former MK Yossi Sarid on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of doing everything possible to delegitimize the law enforcement system and said he had appointed Daniel Friedmann as justice minister to further that aim. Sarid was one of the speakers at a conference at Jerusalem's Van Leer Institute entitled "The Supreme Court and Government: The Court in Israeli Democracy." In the first session, all the speakers, including Sarid, former Supreme Court justices Dalia Dorner and Yitzhak Zamir and MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) focused on the changes Friedmann is in the midst of introducing into the court system and the battle between him and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch. Sarid charged that Olmert had attacked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, the police force has been deliberately weakened and Friedmann was appointed precisely because of the attacks he made on the state prosecution and the Supreme Court in articles for the daily Yediot Aharonot over several years. "Would any other country appoint a justice minister who accused the country's attorney-general of fabricating cases?" asked Sarid, a reference to Friedmann's allegation that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had unjustifiably indicted Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon for forcibly kissing a female soldier. Dorner warned that "a constitutional revolution was taking place in which the government is gaining control over the judicial branch, which will soon lose its independence. The government is intervening more and more in the daily lives of the judges and they will lose their independence because they are only human. They want to advance." "A traffic judge wants to become a magistrate's court judge and a Supreme Court justice wants to become President of the Supreme Court," Dorner said. "The wall has been breached and today there are contacts between the judges and the government," Dorner added. She warned that the one law Friedmann has already succeeded in passing, which limits the tenure of the presidents of all courts, including the Supreme Court, to one term of seven years, will severely weaken the Supreme Court. She also warned that the presidents would lose their independence and their power. "If we add to this Friedmann's bill to change the composition of the Judges' Election Committee, the situation will be terrible," she said. Zamir accused Friedmann of "unilaterally and without consultation taking one step after another, one blow after another, to harm the independence of the judicial system and increase its politicization." Zamir took note of the agreement reached between Friedmann and former Supreme Court Presidents Meir Shamgar and Aharon Barak to pass a law establishing the independence of the judicial system. But he indicated that he was skeptical about whether it would actually happen. Former Supreme Court Deputy President Mishael Cheshin, who spoke from the audience, said, referring to Friedmann, "it is hard to believe anyone could cause so much harm in just six months." Rivlin, a bitter critic of the greater activism of the courts under Beinisch and Barak, said that in overwhelmingly endorsing the law ending the seniority system of choosing the president of the Supreme Court, the Knesset was getting back at the court which had caused it harm for so many years. Cheshin accused the justice minister of introducing many changes into the system without ever explaining why they were needed. "Friedmann says we attack him on personal grounds and not on the substance of his changes," said Cheshin. "However, the onus is on whoever wants to make the changes to explain what was wrong in the first place. If he does that, we will answer him."