Esther Hayut Chosen as New High Court Chief Justice

A view of the High Court building in Yerushalayim. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

High Court Justice Esther Hayut was chosen Tuesday as the new Court Chief Justice. The choice was made by the High Court Selection Committee, made up of former judges and lawyers, on the one criterion that the committee considers – the number of years Justice Hayut has served on the court. Justice Hayut, 63, will hold the seat until 2023, assuming she continues her term on the court.

Justice Hayut has been sitting on the High Court since 2004, after she had been appointed by the Selection Committee. Previously, she had been a judge in Tel Aviv District Court. She began her career in the justice system as an attorney in 1990. Ms. Hayut replaces outgoing head of the court Miriam Naor. Born in 1953, she is a child of Holocaust survivors who both spent time in concentration camps. She will take up the post at the end of October.

The appointment was made over the objections of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has been trying to change the way the Selection Committee works, both in its approval of new judges and its appointment of the head of the court. According to Shaked, the “seniority” system – in which the longest-serving judge automatically “graduates” to become Chief Justice when the opportunity arises – is “unmatched anywhere else in Israel. No other job is essentially filled decades in advance. Local and regional judges are not chosen in this way. I and a professional committee appoint the Chief Justices of the lower courts, and there is no politics involved in those decisions – just as there would not be any in choosing the High Court chief justice,” Minister Shaked told Channel Ten.

Ayelet Shaked has also been trying to change the method by which High Court justices are chosen. Currently, the choice is made by the Selection Committee, with no outside oversight. Minister Shaked wants to add various public officials and ordinary citizens to the committee, in order to ensure that its choices are more balanced.

Outgoing Chief Justice Naor opposed Shaked’s ideas, saying that the seniority system “ensures peace of mind for the justices, who no longer have to ingratiate themselves with a committee in order to ascend to the highest point in the justice system. Thus we avoid competition among justices.”