“I am not aware of a single company, organization or any other entity, large or small, which elects its leader based on technical reasons such as seniority, and not according to his abilities, talents and suitability for the job,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said on Sunday, questioning whether Israel’s Supreme Court, where leadership rotation has been set by seniority for decades, “would have approved of a decision by a board of directors to appoint a CEO solely because he is has the seniority among the executives.”
Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked spoke at a debate she had initiated at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by MK Nissan Slominski (Habayit Hayehudi), on the method of electing a president to the Supreme Court. Also present were President of the Supreme Court Justice Miriam Na’or, Judges, Ministers, MKs and senior officials from the legal world.
The bill that was proposed by Minister Shaked grants members of the Judicial Selection Committee the authority to elect a president to the Supreme Court.
“It is true that the State has traditionally supported appointing the longest serving Justice,” Shaked said, but noted that as Chair of the Ministerial Committee “I feel that my hands have been tied and the authority of my committee revoked. The Supreme Court justices are not interested in running [for president of the court] and do not bother apply. In fact, the committee has no real choice as to who will be president.”
“Let’s say that the Defense Minister will decide to recommend to the post of Chief of Staff the most senior general among the command staff,” Shaked continued. “Would public opinion approve such a decision?”
“Why is it that the most basic principle which is clear as day in any other place and in any other field become irrelevant regarding the appointment of the president of the Supreme Court?” Shaked asked. “Is seniority a guarantee that a person with high management abilities will always be chosen? Does seniority guarantee that they would be an example to the rest of the judges? Of course not, there is no such guarantee.”
Shaked responded to the argument that without the seniority system, the Supreme Court justices will try to please the politicians in order to get their future support for the presidency.
“Seriously? Is this the level of integrity we relate to our Supreme Court Justices?” Shaked wondered. Pointing to Western democracies such as Germany and the US, where the court president (as well as all the other justices) are elected by the legislator, she asked if the supporters of seniority believe the justices in those other democracies are corrupt.
“Those who wish to persist with the seniority system are, in fact, asking the Judicial Selection Committee to give up its own discretion to make a decision in real-time,” Shaked argued, stressing that “the rules of administrative law impose on the committee the duty to exercise discretion and to choose the person most suitable for the position.”