Friedmann Proposes Search C'ttee for Court Presidents

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann believes that court presidents should be appointed by a search committee, the minister told the Knesset Constitution Committee yesterday at his first appearance before the panel.

Also yesterday, the Knesset approved the first reading of a bill that would limit court presidents and deputy presidents to a single, seven-year term. The government-sponsored bill, which also applies to Supreme Court presidents, passed by a vote of 16-1.

Currently, court presidents are appointed by the justice minister with the consent of the Supreme Court president. But because "this is a job of supreme importance," Friedmann said, he believes that search committees would be more appropriate.

His office later clarified that he was referring only to district and magistrate's court presidents, not the Supreme Court president. The latter is currently appointed by the Judicial Appointments Committee, and traditionally this panel always picks the longest-serving sitting justice.

At yesterday's committee meeting, Friedmann was lambasted by several MKs, as well as Israel Bar Association Chairman Shlomo Cohen. The latter accused Friedmann of serving as a "demolition contractor," who was destroying the judicial system by proposing reforms that would politicize it. That elicited an angry response from the head of the opposition in the Bar, Yaron Festinger, who declared that "most attorneys support Minister Friedmann and his reforms."

The MKs, in contrast, were mainly angry that Friedmann had failed to publicly back State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused the comptroller of abusing his position and demanded he face a criminal investigation. Friedmann declined to respond to these accusations.