Yaron Festinger

Basic facts: 53 years old; graduated from The Hebrew University Law School in 1981; specializes in litigation involving personal injuries and medical negligence. Yaron Festinger is the feistiest and most outspoken of the candidates and he is less polished and more direct than his rivals. His Jerusalem office - he has another one in Tel Aviv, but lives in Jerusalem - also lacks the spit and polish of most of the others. Festinger ran for the chairmanship of the Bar four years ago and fell less than 200 votes short of defeating the winner, Shlomo Cohen. He takes pride in the fact that his faction set a record for the most seats in the Bar's national council. Festinger is the most outspokenly ideological candidate in the race. He was one of the harshest critics of what he considered the expansionist Supreme Court under retired president Aharon Barak. He also called for reforms in the procedures for electing judges, including maintaining a formal protocol, administering personality tests for all candidates, and providing members of the Judges Election Committee with background material on all candidates in good enough time so that they could be properly informed before the voting. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to hear that he warmly supports the appointment of Prof. Daniel Friedmann as justice minister. Festinger, who writes a regular opinion column in the daily Ma'ariv, where he used to - and still does - heap fire and brimstone on Barak, told The Jerusalem Post: "No one else writes like me. The only other observer of the Supreme Court who did that was Daniel Friedmann. Friedmann's appointment appeals to the yearnings of most lawyers. This is an historic opportunity to change the direction of the Supreme Court." Festinger, however, goes to great lengths to stress that he is not at war with Barak's successor, Dorit Beinisch, and supports her initiative to speed up the judicial process. "In the disagreements between Friedmann and Beinisch, my position is based on the merits of each particular case," he told the Post. "Beinisch is not responsible for the terrible condition of the court system today." Although opposed to Barak's program to reform the system by shifting responsibilities downwards from the Supreme Court to the district courts and from the district courts to the magistrate's courts, Festinger would nevertheless like to see the Supreme Court's functions as a High Court of Justice transferred to the district courts. On the other hand, he wants to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from 15 to 21 or 24. Festinger has been at the forefront of many of the battles that the Bar and individual lawyers have waged in recent years, including the fight against former justice minister Meir Sheetrit's introduction of an afternoon court, Barak's reform plan and the current battle over reducing the statute of limitation from seven to four years. He says he will fight to privatize government services to provide more jobs for the burgeoning law profession. He has already been involved in the fight to privatize National Insurance lawsuits, a move which provided work for hundreds of private lawyers. Now, he wants the Justice Ministry to privatize legal representation in civil actions by or against the government and does not rule out the possibility of privatizing criminal cases as well. Festinger has personal scores to settle with several of the candidates running against him. One is Ilan Bombach; another is Shay Segal.