Constitution Committee Approves Bills on Composition of Judges Selection Committee for Final Readings

MK Simcha Rothman, head of the Constitution Committee, during a committee meeting at the Knesset, on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism), convened on Monday and voted to approve for second and third readings a proposed amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary and a supplementary amendment to the Courts Law, dealing with an arrangement on the composition of the Judges Selection Committee. This is the first of several arrangements in the draft amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary discussed by the committee. In the course of the votes, the committee approved two reservations eliminating the demand for factional diversity in the composition of the committee. The bills were passed by a majority of 8-7.

The bills propose that the Judges Selection Committee will number 11 members, as follows:

  • The Supreme Court President, along with two other Supreme Court justices to be chosen by the Supreme Court. For appointing judges to other courts, the committee will include the Supreme Court President, a District Court President to be chosen by the presidents of the District Courts and a Magistrates’ Court President to be chosen by the presidents of the Magistrates’ Courts. For appointing judges to the Labor Courts, the National Labor Court President will serve on the committee instead of the Magistrates’ Court President;
  • The Minister of Justice and two additional ministers to be designated by the Government;
  • Five Members of Knesset, including three from the coalition factions and two from the opposition factions, as will be prescribed by law or the Knesset Rules of Procedure.

The Minister of Justice will chair the committee, and it will be entitled to operate with [a quorum of] no less than six members.

The committee will be entitled to make appointments of Supreme Court justices as follows:

  • Two appointments by a regular majority of its members;
  • One appointment by a regular majority of its members, including an opposition MK who serves on the committee;
  • Other appointments — by a regular majority of its members, including an opposition MK and a judge who serves on the committee.

The Supreme Court President and Deputy President will be chosen by a regular majority of the committee members.

A judge for courts other than the Supreme Court will be appointed with the support of seven committee members.

Removal of a judge from office will be decided upon by a majority of at least nine members. It should be noted that the committee will be able to decide on retirement [of a judge] for medical causes, based on a medical opinion according to rules that it has set, that due to [the judge’s] state of health he is unable to continue to perform his duties — only by a majority of nine committee members.

The Knesset will elect its members of the committee by secret ballot. MKs who will serve as committee members on behalf of coalition factions will be elected by the members of the coalition factions, and MKs who will serve as committee members on behalf of opposition factions will be elected by the members of the opposition factions, in accordance with the Knesset Rules of Procedure. If a change takes place in a committee member’s affiliation, another member will be appointed in his stead within 30 days from the date of the change, so that the committee’s composition will be preserved.

The judges, with the exception of the President of the Supreme Court and the President of the National Labor Court, will serve for a three-year period.

At least one of the representatives of the Supreme Court justices on the committee, at least one of the Government’s representatives, at least one of the Knesset representatives from the coalition factions and at least one of the Knesset representatives from the opposition factions on the committee will be women. Starting from the next Knesset, in case the justice minister or the Supreme Court President should be a woman, this provision will apply to the other ministers and judges.

On the matter of a public hearing: the Judges Selection Committee will summon candidates for a judicial post on the Supreme Court to appear before it publicly, in a manner and under conditions that it will determine.

As noted above, the bills were approved by a majority of eight supporters versus seven opposing votes.

Committee Chairman MK Rothman said: “This is a balanced bill that is good for the entire people of Israel. Many people are spreading fake news to you. Don’t rely on people who are telling you tall tales. Read the bill. In every democratic country, the people choose the judges. Judges do not have a veto over those who enter the court, and there are balance mechanisms designed to prevent a random majority from taking over the governmental institutions. All that is in the bill.”

MK Hanoch Milwidsky (Likud): “The story isn’t the reform, it’s the fact that we have to rebuild the definition of what Israeli society is. We see the deep rifts that have existed for many years, and we have seen this erupt recently. To think that this will be resolved over time is a mistake. The Prime Minister will decide the fate of the legislation, and that is what we are committed to do. I am following with concern the statements on the other side that speak about prosecution. This won’t deter anyone.”

MK Yitzhak Kroizer (Otzma Yehudit): “I would like to voice support for you, [MK] Rothman, and for Minister [Yariv] Levin. There are 2.5 million citizens standing behind us. I hope that despite the fact that you’re trying to terrorize 64 seats in the State of Israel, we will come out of this strong and reinforced.”

MK Moshe Saada (Likud): “There are people in Israel who are equal and there are those who are more equal than others, and they are permitted to engage in a discourse of disobedience, block roads, instigate mutiny and call for civil disobedience. The dispute here is narrow and fairly academic, and it doesn’t pertain to most of the citizens. I hope that we will all be able to celebrate the Seder night together, and that the reform will pass, b’ezrat Hashem.”

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