Liberal High Court Justice Announces Early Retirement in a Surprise Move

Justice Minister Nissenkorn hopes to appoint replacement for Menachem Mazuz before a potential Knesset dissolution, but a polarized Judicial Appointments Committee might make it difficult

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz
Supreme Court Justice Menachem MazuzCredit: Oliver Fitoussi
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israeli Justice Menachem Mazuz announced on Monday he would retire from the High Court due to unspecified "personal reasons," in a surprise move that would likely see him replaced with a more conservative judge.

Mazuz, one of 15 justices, would stop serving on Israel's highest court on April 30, 2021, an official statement said. Justices normally retire at 70, but Mazuz is 65 years old.

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"At the end of six and a half years of serving on the Supreme Court and some 40 years of public service, I've reached a decision… to end my tenure," he said. "Over the past years I've dedicated my time and energy to judicial work, I would like to thank President [Esther Hayut] and my fellow justices for the opportunity to serve alongside them and contribute together to the advancement of the rule of law and the safeguarding of democratic values in Israel."

Alongside Justice Hanan Melcer, who reached retirement age, the Judicial Appointments Committee headed by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, will now need to fill the two vacancies. However, the committee is polarized and has failed to reach agreements on appointments to district and magistrate’s courts in its recent discussions. 

Should the Knesset dissolve, the committee will also be disbanded, and Nissenkorn is looking at ways to convene it and push through an agreement on two new justices before it happens.

With the committee’s current makeup, including members like conservative Likud lawmakers Miri Regev and Osnat Mark, Nissenkorn is unlikely to approve a liberal successor to Mazuz, considered the most liberal justice on the bench. 

Born on the Tunisian island of Djerba, his family moved to Israel when he was one year old. He studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and interned at the High Court of Justice and the High Court of Justice Department at the State Prosecutor's Office. In 1981, he became a licensed lawyer in Israel.

In 1994, Mazuz was appointed deputy attorney general was then appointed attorney general a decade later. He served in that position until 2010, and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2014.

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