Justice minister, High Court president clash over Judges Election Committee agenda

Committee chairman Friedmann informed members that instead of considering the appointments of more judges to lower courts, the meeting would center on more changes in the procedures for choosing judges.

A new dispute is brewing between Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch over the agenda for Wednesday's scheduled meeting of the Judges Election Committee. Friedmann, who is the chairman of the committee, informed its members earlier in the week that instead of considering the appointments of more judges to the lower courts, the meeting would be devoted to making more changes in the procedures for choosing judges. During the first meeting chaired by Friedmann on February 27, the committee also spent much of its time discussing changes in the process for choosing judges. In early February, the Judges Election Committee published a list of candidates for about 40 vacant positions in the labor courts, magistrate's courts, district courts, juvenile courts, family courts and traffic courts. The committee appointed six judges at the February 27 meeting. "No new judges have been appointed to the magistrate's and district courts for a long time," Beinisch wrote Friedmann. "This has contributed to the ongoing lag whereby cases wait for a hearing date for many months, even years, because there are no judges. My responsibility to the system obliges me to warn that there is an urgent need to finish the appointments as quickly as possible." Beinisch told Friedmann he should arrange separate committee meetings to consider the changes he wanted to introduce without putting off the new judges' appointments. In his letter to the committee members, Friedmann had written that from now on, all candidates for judicial posts would have to submit their final report and law school grades to them. Judges seeking promotions to higher courts would have to submit samples of rulings they had written. The samples would be given for review to retired judges who would not know the identity of the judges who had written them. Friedmann added that he wanted to apply these new procedures to the candidates for the currently vacant posts. He said that because he had only recently been appointed, he had not had time to recommend his own candidates for the vacant positions and wanted time to do so. Attorney Yori Geiron, who is a member of the Judges Election Committee and a candidate for the head of the Bar Association, told The Jerusalem Post there is a degree of truth in the positions of both Friedmann and Beinisch. "Under ordinary circumstances," said Geiron, "it would be easy to bridge the gap between the two positions. However, in this case it is clear that the tensions between the two still exist." Friedmann and Beinisch clashed over Beinisch's objection to appointing Friedmann's protege, Tel Aviv University Professor Nili Cohen, to the Supreme Court and were not on speaking terms for several years. Geiron said there was no question that there was a severe shortage of judges and that the pressure to fill vacant positions came from the rank and file of the law profession. On the other hand, it was true that Friedmann was only appointed one month ago and was nonetheless already holding his second meeting of the Judges Election Committee. Geiron added that some of the changes that Friedmann wanted to introduce were relevant to the current appointments and some less so. For example, the current judges can be appointed without knowing their university grades, although Friedmann wants to introduce this change in the future. One possible compromise would be to appoint judges to those positions which must be filled immediately and to postpone appointments to postings that are less urgent. Another possibility would be to postpone appointments to positions where Friedmann believes he has better candidates than those currently in the running.