Who Are Israel's New Supreme Court Judges?

Judicial Appointments Committee votes in new justices unanimously, with the exception of Noam Sohlberg, who was backed by 8 of the 9 panel members.

Tomer Zarchin
Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin
Tomer Zarchin

Zvi Zylbertal, the sensitive judge

In the previous round of selections, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch fought for the appointment of Justice Uzi Vogelman. In the current round, she supported Zylbertal.

Zvi Zylbertal.

Zylbertal, 59, from Jerusalem, is currently deputy president of the Jerusalem District Court. He issued no verdicts on controversial issues during his term.

Zylbertal majored in physics and mathematics in high school and went on to study law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He practiced law in a private firm for many years, and also served as the secretary of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

In 1990 Zylbertal was appointed to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and in 2001, he received his appointment to the district court.

He is remembered as one of the judges who heard the case of Eli Pimstein, who confessed to the murder of his 2-year-old daughter Hodaya in 2003.

Zylbertal, who is considered a liberal, is known for his sensitivity and open thinking. In a precedent-setting verdict in 2009, he ruled that a police sapper should be recognized as suffering from a psychological disability resulting from his frequent exposure to the aftermath of terror attacks and road accidents.

In 2008, he ruled in favor of a family whose soldier-son had committed suicide and his tissue had been stored for years in the pathological institute, although the family had not agreed to an autopsy.

Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez, the youngest justice

Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez was the dark horse of the appointment process. At 47 years old, she will be the youngest Supreme Court justice.

Prof. Daphne Barak-ErezCredit: Moti Milrod

Barak-Erez, who specializes in public law and is dean of the Tel Aviv University law faculty, is respected both within academia and beyond. She has written or edited 14 books and has published more than 90 academic articles on subjects including privatization and human and civil rights, in addition to her main area of interest. In her ruling against privatizing Israeli prisons, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch quoted at length from Barak-Erez's writing.

Barak-Erez earned her L.L.B., L.L.M and J.D. degrees from Tel Aviv University. She served in the Military Advocate General's Corps for a number of years and was a captain at the time of her discharge. Barak-Erez has always taken great care to avoid been identified with any particular political camp.

In an interview to TheMarker about a year and a half ago, Barak-Erez addressed the criticism of the court voiced during Daniel Friedman's time as justice minister. "There is no doubt that in recent years the Supreme Court has faced exaggerated criticism without due appreciation for its enormous contribution to public life," she said, adding that the criticism often strikes a responsive chord in the public when it comes to military matters because of the security-related challenges faced in Israel on a daily basis. "It is difficult to accept rulings that are seen as not serving the immediate interests of security and the state," she said.

With regard to the right to petition the High Court of Justice Barak-Erez said: "One can see that the legal developments that were controversial in years past were very important, such as expanding the right to petition. If we want to fight corruption it is important to expand the right to legal standing in order to fight, in real time, rulings that could be corrupt."

Uri Shoham, the most threatened judge

Uri Shoham (formerly Shaharbani ) was born in Iraq in 1948 and immigrated to Israel in 1951. He had a long career in the MAG Corps, serving as military advocate of the Central Command, chief military prosecutor, president of the military appeals court in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and as the military advocate general. He was discharged from the Israel Defense Forces at the rank of brigadier general.

In 2001 he was named to the Tel Aviv District Court, where he is considered a conservative judge and where he deals mainly with criminal cases. Shoham recently began to take on more civil cases, perhaps in order to brush up his curriculum vitae for a nomination to the Supreme Court. About two years ago Haaretz reported that Shoham was ranked as the judge with the most threats against him. The "title" was awarded after he sat on a panel of judges that in 2009 sent members of a Jaffa crime organization to prison for extended periods of time.

After the verdict one of the defendants shouted at him, "You'll hear from us yet, when the time comes." Shoham's Ramat Gan home was placed under 24-hour video surveillance, and a security guard position was built at the entrance to the building.

The security arrangements have been scaled down over the past year, but two months ago the Attorney General's Office announced that Israeli law enforcement agencies had received intelligence regarding a plan to attack a judge. The intended victim was not named.

Noam Sohlberg, the controversial candidate

The candidacy of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg was controversial because he lives on a West Bank settlement and is identified with the right wing. Sohlberg, 50, studied at Haifa's Yavne high-school yeshiva. He did his internship with Plia Albeck, who ran the Civil Department of the State Prosecutor's Office for 24 years and was considered responsible for enabling the settlement enterprise.

Naom Sohlberg.

Sohlberg went on to serve as assistant to attorneys general Yosef Harish, Michael Ben-Yair and Elyakim Rubinstein, who is still considered a member of his circle. Sohlberg's relationship with Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman began in part when he served as counsel to the committee appointed in 1997 to examine the issue of conversions and which Neeman headed.

In 1988 Sohlberg began serving as a judge, first in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and then in the District Court. He issued a number of controversial rulings, including acquitting a police officer, who shot and killed a Palestinian, of manslaughter. Sohlberg accepted the argument that the officer may have erred in believing that his life was in danger. The Supreme Court upheld the verdict on appeal.

In 2001 Sohlberg acquitted three members of the Kach movement who were charged with disturbing the trial of MK Ahmed Tibi. Solhlberg ruled that the descriptions in the charge sheet were imprecise. In 2009 he ruled that the interior minister has the authority not to renew the passport of an Israeli citizen who avoided serving in the army.

Sohlberg is responsible for a number of rulings in the area of slander and libel that have been criticized as violating freedom of the press. The most prominent of these concerned a libel suit filed by an army captain identified as R. against Ilana Dayan and the broadcaster, that implied that the plaintiff carried out a "kill verification" after shooting a Palestinian girl. Sohlberg ruled that the manner in which the materials were presented and edited on the investigative news program caused R. injustice. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the appeal.

In November the Yesh Gvul organization asked to have Sohlberg's nomination to the Supreme Court disqualified. Among the reasons cited were Sohlberg's place of residence - Alon Shvut, part of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the territories, and as such a violation of the Geneva Convention.

"Judge Sohlberg, as a settler, is not qualified to preside over any judicial instance, certainly not over Israel's highest judicial instance," Yesh Gvul wrote in its request.



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