Israel Bar elects new officers

Lawyers were due on Tuesday to elect the senior officers of their regulatory body, the Israel Bar, for the next four years. Some 35,000 lawyers had the right to choose the national chairman of the Bar and the members of the national council. In addition, lawyers practicing in each of the five regional districts, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the South and the North were to elect the chairmen of the district Bars and the members of the district councils. During the last election in 2003, 42 percent of the electorate cast their votes. The Bar administers the exam that all law school graduates must take in order to be able to practice law. It also administers an ethics court which hears complaints against the professional conduct of lawyers. Over the years, the Bar has established many other committees dealing with various facets of the practice. The Bar also serves as a union aimed at protecting the community of lawyers against encroachments on the field from other economic groups, seeking new avenues of income and arranging for discounts and other commercial advantages for its members. According to reports, the front-runners in the election for chairman of the Bar include Ilan Bombach, currently chairman of the Tel Aviv district Bar, and Yori Geiron, one of the Bar's two representatives to the Judges' Election Committee. Another well-known candidate, and the only Jerusalem representative, is Yaron Festinger, one of the most outspoken critics of the Supreme Court under its former president, Aharon Barak. Other candidates include Eitan Erez, Moshe Weinberg, and Shay Segal. Bombach, 41, is a controversial figure who has been involved in many well-known cases during his relatively short career. His rise through the ranks of the Bar has been meteoric. He was the youngest head of the Ethics Committee, the youngest chairman of the Tel Aviv district Bar, and, if elected national chairman, he will be the youngest person to hold that position. Geiron, 45, is regarded as one of the most consistent supporters of the Supreme Court, although he stresses that he is an independent thinker who judges each issue on its own merits. He founded "Lishka Aheret" 16 years ago in his first year as a lawyer. Shlomo Cohen, who served as chairman of the Bar for the past eight years, was a member of the faction. Festinger came close to winning the previous election. But his chances appear to have diminished because of Bombach's candidacy. The last polls were due to close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and unofficial results were expected later that evening. However, the official results will be announced by the election committee on Wednesday at 5 p.m.