Knesset Clears Path for Grunis as Chief Justice

Bill would eliminate 'minimum service' requirement and allow Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis to head the court until he turns 70 in January 2015.

On Monday, the Knesset passed the first reading of a bill that would pave the way for Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis to become court president after Dorit Beinisch retires in February. The vote was 52-35.

Current law calls for new Supreme Court presidents to have at least three years left on the bench before mandatory retirement at age 70. This would prevent Grunis, who would have slightly less than three years left, from assuming the court presidency, although he is the senior justice after Beinisch.

The bill, sponsored by National Union MK Yaakov Katz, would eliminate this "minimum service" requirement and thus allow Grunis to head the court until he turns 70 in January 2015.

The bill was condemned by the opposition because it was tailored for the benefit of a specific person. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) said he had nothing against Grunis in terms of his abilities or qualifications but "personal laws" have no place in a properly functioning state.

Others decried what they described as yet another attempt at political interference in the judicial system.

Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ) mocked the criticism, particularly from Kadima, noting that Kadima chairman Tzipi Livni had been a senior minister in the last government, when then justice minister Daniel Friedmann made dramatic changes to the system and she supported them.

If the bill fails, then Justice Miriam Naor would be the next Supreme Court president.