Israeli Justice Minister Intervenes to Appoint Ideological Peer to Court Role

Ayelet Shaked wants attorney Amitsur Eitam, son of right-wing former minister Effi Eitam, promoted to labor court registrar.

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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, March, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has intervened in the process of appointing a registrar to a regional labor court in order to appoint someone considered ideologically aligned with her.

Her decision to push forward the candidacy of attorney Amitsur Eitam over that of another nominee is considered highly unusual. Eitam is the son of former minister and chairman of the National Religious Party Effi Eitam. Although the elder Eitam is now a private businessman, he is still involved in public life and frequently comments on current affairs. Just last week Eitam, a former brigadier general, was interview about the shooting of the subdued terrorist in Hebron.

A court registrar is a junior-level judicial position that usually leads to a spot on the bench later on. The procedure for appointing registrars involves an informal advisory committee making recommendations to the National Labor Court president, who consults with the economy minister and presents his choices to the justice minister for approval. While the justice minister indeed has the final say, past ministers have rarely contested the recommendations made by the National Labor Court president.

Recently Shaked received recommendations to appoint two people as court registrars: Attorney Karin Lieber Levin, who had previously worked in the Knesset administration, and attorney Merav Kleinman from the state prosecution. A short time afterward, Shaked wrote to the National Labor Court president and asked to drop the candidacy of Lieber Levin and to appoint Eitam instead.

Eitam is a prosecutor in the civil division of the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office. He received high marks in the judges’ training course and excellent recommendations as a candidate for a judicial position. Senior prosecutors told Haaretz that Eitam is well regarded and there is no disputing his suitability for the position. Nevertheless, the court president apparently preferred others at this time.

Shaked’s office responded that, “The law states that the justice minister is an integral part of the process of appointing labor court registrars. The obligation to consult with the economy minister, along with the need to get the approval of the justice minister, is the mechanism that the legislature chose to assure the appointment of the best possible registrars.

“The minister carefully examines all the data on each candidate, paying attention to his experience, performance and grades in the judges’ preparation course, as well as the impressions of the subcommittee and the recommendations. The minister is not a rubber stamp in the appointment process, and she has the right to express her position with regard to relevant candidates for the post of registrar.”

The Courts Administration spokesman said, “With regard to the names mentioned, the appointment process has not yet ended. The system seeks to appoint the best candidates.”

Shaked’s intervention comes at a time when a difficult atmosphere prevails in the judicial system. Although there is no data proving a disproportionate bias toward candidates affiliated with the right or with religious Zionism in the appointment or promotion of judges, many judges in the magistrate’s and district courts say that the appointment and promotion process has become tendentious.

A senior retired judge said Wednesday that there is a sense of resentment among sitting judges and some are considering whether to resign because chances of being promoted are small, since they are not members of those groups preferred by the judicial appointments committee headed by Shaked.