September 19 : Convening the Judicial Selection Committee

September 19 : Convening the Judicial Selection Committee

September 7 the court will hear petitions against Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin, on whether to force him to convene the Judicial Selection Committee which appoints new judges. UPDATE: The hearing date has been postponed to September 19. Because of the delay, the court is currently considering an injunction against the government, forcing a temporary order to assemble the panel. UPDATE: POSTPONED, date to be determined.

Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin is dallying on convening the judicial selection committee responsible for appointing judges, because he wants to control its composition.

Israel has a third of the European average of judges per capita – but up to twice as many cases being heard by those judges. The Director of the Israel Courts Administration said that Israel has nearly three times fewer judges per capita than the average in the EU, but twice as many civi cases per capita, and more than one a a half times more criminal cases. The delay on convening the judicial selection committee has substantially held up the appointment of new judges, causing an overload on an already severely-overloaded court system.

The nine-person judicial selection committee is traditionally composed of two government ministers; two law-makers (one from the Coalition, one from the Opposition); three Supreme Court justices; and two lawyers from the Israel Bar Association, with legal professionals having a slight majority over politicians.

Currently, the committee includes Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg (replacing Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman, whose three-year term just expired); Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzchak Kroizer; another not-yet-selected government minister; and Likud’s Levin, all four expected to be supporting the Coalition judicial choices. Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut; Supreme Court Justice Isaac Amit; Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharrar; and two nominees from the Israel Bar Association; are all five expected to be opposing Coalition judicial choices. Lower court judges require five committee votes; Supreme Court justices require seven votes.

Levin hopes to reconstitute how the committee is formed, to realign it to favor Coalition judicial choices. In the interim, he has refused to convene the committee.


Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut just removed Justice Yosef Elron from the panel that will hear petitions against Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee, in apparent response to Elron’s proposal of himself for Chief Justice, presumably since it is a conflict of interest.

Chief Justices have traditionally been chosen based on seniority. The next Chief Justice is supposed to be (liberal) Justice Isaac Amit. However, the Coalition has indicated it will not be happy with Amit in the position. Instead, until they can dispense with the seniority system, the Coalition has indicated it will leave the position vacant.

In order to circumvent the seniority tradition, and until the system is changed, the Coalition needed a sitting justice to present him or herself as a candidate. In May, Globes had reported that Elron was considering nominating himself.

In the absence of an appointment of a new chief Justice, responsibilities will go to vice president, Justice Uzi Vogelman (a more palatable choice for the Coalition, especially given his retirement next year, making a rapid more palatable replacement soon possible.) Both Hayut and Justice Anat Baron are to step down in October for mandatory retirement.

Chief Justices of the Supreme Court are customarily chosen from currently-sitting justices by the Judicial Selection Committee, which is traditionally composed of three high court justices, three coalition MKs, one opposition MK, and two Bar Association members. Levin is attempting to wrest control of the committee - and thus the court composition - to the Coalition, by delaying the appointment of Hayut’s replacement until the seniority system is altered, and possibly also by opening the top position to someone not yet on the bench as Levin has indicated.


Religious Zionism Chairman of the Constitution Committee MK Simcha Rothman also jumped into the fray, telling 103 FM radio that elections for court president should be “democratic” and not based on seniority as is traditional. Channel 12 reported on Sunday that Rothman submitted a bill to automate randomly by-computer Supreme Court president responsibilities, including the ability to compose the bench for hearings.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara will not represent the government's position on failure to convene the judicial committee; she told Levin to seek independent counsel. She has said there's no legal justification for Levin's failure to convene the committee and pointed out that there are currently 21 judicial appointments that need to be filled; by the end of the year, there will be 53. By 2024, there will be 115 vacant positions in the system, according to a report in Maariv.

On September 3, a few days before the hearing, Levin reiterated that he will not convene the committee until its composition has been changed.

The hearing on Levin's failure to convene the committee will be heard September 7, unless the government is successful in requesting a postponement. UPDATE: Postponement granted, rescheduled for September 19. The court is considering a temporary injunction.

Update, September 14:

The Supreme Court just issued an interim injunction against Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin for his continued refusal to convene the judicial selection committee. Levin insists he won’t convene the committee until he can change its composition to make it more favorable to the Coalition. There are expected to be more than 50 open judicial position by the end of this year, and a backlog of open cases.

Levin has requested to have the injunction annulled.

UPDATE, September 15: The hearing has again been postponed, to a date to be determined.