Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Israel's Supreme Court - Judicial Reform

One of the great aspects of the United States Supreme Court is honor. More honor is attached to that court than most in the world. And rightly so.
The same cannot be said about the Supreme Court or High Court of Justice in Israel. And again, rightly so.

In the United States, the President of the USA is responsible for choosing a new justice. He (or she) selects someone, who must be confirmed by the Senate. Sound like they're overstepping their bounds? Don't worry - once selected, appointed, and confirmed, a Supreme Court Justice is on for life, or until they choose to step down, (unless impeached).

Israel has an interesting way of choosing new justices. While there is a committee that consists of 3 current justices, 2 MKs, 2 ministers (including the Justice Minister,) and 2 members of the Bar, usually, all are aligned to the left. Regardless, only the justices have veto power. So not only can justices help select their successors, they can also keep out unwanted ones. And there's a mandatory retirement age of 70.

What does that leave us with? General neutrality and impartiality in the USA, as they're there for life with no job fears, and in general, there's a pretty even make-up of Conservatives to Liberals. In Israel? Liberal to extremely liberal.

Not disrespecting the court enough yet? In the United States, the court sees very limited cases. They see the real landmark cases. They see cases where the government has perhaps overstepped their Constitutional authority. In Israel? Seemingly every case is eventually appealed up to the Supreme Court. Cases that possibly have zero to do with the government. Cases involving NGOs suing one another...

New judicial reform bills have been proposed in the Knesset to correct at least some issues. By requiring potential justices to be first confirmed by the Knesset's Legislative Committee, it would instill at least some form of accountability into the system by preventing the court from running away with control, and constantly stocking it with their own replacements.

The court is there to protect the law. Judges should uphold the honor and integrity that is due the court. Unfortunately, at least since the times of Ahron Barak, and continued with Dorit Beinisch, the court has been filled with judicial activists, who simply feel it is their right as Supreme Court justices to write the law as they feel, disregard laws passed by the Knesset they don't like, and ignore the people and the Knesset's wishes, and the spirit of the law.

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