Jerusalem District Court Judge Leads Comptroller Race

Sources say Joseph Shapira currently enjoys the broadest support within the legislature, which is the body that chooses the state comptroller.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Joseph Shapira is currently the leading candidate to become the next state comptroller when incumbent Micha Lindenstrauss retires later this year, Knesset sources have said.

The sources said that Shapira currently enjoys the broadest support within the legislature, which is the body that chooses the state comptroller.

Joseph Shapira - Courts Administration - February
Courts Administration

The vote will not take place until May, so it is far too soon to say for certain who will actually get the job. Nevertheless, Shapira's surge to the front of the pack is surprising, because until recently, the leading candidates were thought to be outgoing Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin and former Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel.

The Knesset sources said that Turkel has ceased to be a leading contender in part because he made it clear he has no interest in the job. Turkel himself declined to comment.

Other people who have been mentioned as candidates for the post include former district court judge Amnon Straschnov, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershatz, former Justice Minister David Libai, former air force commander and ambassador David Ivry, former military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit and former Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia - though several Knesset members said that Procaccia is highly unlikely to get the job.

The exact date of the vote will be announced shortly by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, but it is expected to take place in early May. By law, the vote must take place between one and three months before Lindenstrauss leaves office in early July, and for part of that window of time, the Knesset will be in recess.

To be considered for the post, a person must have his name submitted by at least 10 Knesset members. The winner is then chosen from among the nominees in a secret ballot.

Shapira's candidacy was the brainchild of a joint forum of Likud and Kadima MKs comprised of Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin (Likud ) and Dalia Itzik and Roni Bar-On (Kadima ). The forum's goal was to find a candidate acceptable to both the main coalition party and the main opposition party; thus the fact that Shapira appears to have its support would seem to give him an advantage in the race.

Nevertheless, Knesset members said, that does not guarantee his victory: The forum itself has not made a final decision, and may yet consider other candidates.

Sources close to Shapira confirmed to Haaretz that he was approached by coalition MKs about the comptroller's job and agreed to take it if elected. Nevertheless, he was surprised to discover last night that he is now considered the leading candidate, as he had not been informed about the progress of the past few days' efforts to forge a broad consensus around his candidacy.

There is some speculation in political circles that even though the vote cannot be held until May, the Prime Minister's Bureau might want to announce a consensus candidate to be the next comptroller before the Knesset recesses at the end of March, in an effort to paint Lindenstrauss as a lame duck before he issues two potentially explosive reports: one on the December 2010 Carmel forest fire, and one on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trips abroad.

Shapira, an expert in civil and commercial law, is well-regarded by lawyers and judges alike. Lawyers who have appeared frequently in his courtroom described him yesterday as "humane," "fair" and "professional."

Born in 1945, he studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and spent years in private practice in the capital before being appointed to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in 2003. During those years, he also acquired a master's in criminology from the University of Leicester in England.

After a stint as a temporary judge on the Jerusalem District Court, he was promoted to a permanent position on that court in 2005.

In addition, he has been doing his army reserve duty as a judge on the Military Court of Appeals since 1999. He has also served as deputy head of the Israel Bar Association's national disciplinary court.