Judges' panel refuses to publish protocols

The Judges Election Committee on Tuesday made six new appointments to the lower courts but decided against publishing a detailed protocol of the committee's deliberations now or in the future, Tzahi Moshe, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's communications adviser, announced. The committee also decided to postpone a meeting that had been scheduled for March 25 to elect new justices to the Supreme Court. There are currently only 10 permanent justices serving on the court which, by law, is supposed to have 15. The committee decided that it would record the topics that it discussed regarding each candidate vying for a judicial posting, but would not publish this material unless the committee specifically decided otherwise. It decided that the protocol that would be released would "reflect the main points of the committee's itinerary for that meeting." Moshe did not elaborate on this decision. Regarding another matter, the court decided to publish in the government gazette the names of the candidates for each judicial posting 30 days before the committee is due to vote, instead of 21 days as has been the case up until now. The names are published in order to give the public time to express opposition and provide information to the committee about the various candidates. According to Tuesday's decision, objections will be accepted up to 10 days before the committee meeting, so as to give the candidates enough time to respond to the allegations against them. The committee also decided that the subcommittees of the Judges Election Committee that interview each candidate for a judicial posting who is not currently a judge, must refer every candidate to the course for judges conducted by the Judges In-Training Center. Until now, the subcommittee has not been required to instruct every candidate to take the five-day course. The subcommittee may also order candidates to take a special test to gauge whether they are suitable for a judicial career. The committee decided to meet again on March 7 to continue appointing new judges to lower and district courts. Meanwhile, activist Ben-Zion Citrin wrote to Friedmann earlier in the day demanding that he keep the Justice Ministry's promise to elect new justices to the Supreme Court on March 25. The Justice Ministry made the promise in response to a petition filed by Citrin demanding that the Judges Election Committee appoint new justices immediately, since no new appointments had been made to the Supreme Court since May 2004, and five positions were vacant. In a letter written by his lawyer, Chaim Stanger, Citrin reminded Friedmann that the High Court had rejected his petition on the basis of the state's promise.