Beinisch Gives Quiet Support to Upping Judicial Appt. Majority

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch has declined to express an opinion on a bill that would require Supreme Court appointments to be approved by seven of the Judicial Appointments Committee's nine members. She thereby indicated that she does not oppose the bill.

The Knesset Constitution Committee approved the bill for a first reading yesterday, and it seems likely to pass its final readings before the Knesset begins its summer recess. Currently, Supreme Court appointments require only a simple majority of the Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC) to pass.

At yesterday's Constitution Committee hearing, several people argued that the required majority should be only six members, not seven. Dr. Peretz Segal of the Justice Ministry said the Ministerial Committee on Legislation had only agreed to support a six-member majority; moreover, he argued, six members constitutes a two-thirds majority, which is ample.

MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), who chairs the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, also objected to anything more than than six.

But the bill's sponsor, MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), rejected this idea, arguing that six is not a large enough majority to mandate candidates have the support of people with a variety of views. Most of the MKs present supported his stance.

Israel Bar Association Chairman Yuri Geiron, who also serves on the JAC, opposed the bill for this very reason, warning that the need to reach a broad consensus would result in the committee settling for mediocre compromise candidates.

Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, a Nobel Prize laureate in economics, raised a different issue, arguing that lawyers and judges should not sit on the JAC at all. Currently, the JAC's nine members include three Supreme Court justices and two Bar Association representatives, along with two ministers and two Knesset members.

"It's a scandal that lawyers are represented on the committee, when they must appear before the judges [they appoint]," he said. "This is institutional corruption."

Regarding the issue over which he had been invited to the Constitution Committee - explaining how the bill would affect the current balance of power among the JAC's four factions - Aumann said the Supreme Court justices would retain their current dominance in the appointments process, since the bill gave any bloc of three members a veto. He therefore opposed the bill, saying it would prevent a more fundamental reform of the system.