Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron set a precedent on Wednesday when he announced his candidacy for the post of Court President after Justice Esther Hayut leaves office on October 26. The announcement challenged the existing order whereby the court president is always replaced by the justice with the highest seniority, provided that said justice has enough time left to serve before they turn 70.
It should be noted that the seniority system is not anchored in the law, it’s just the way things have been done since the late 1940s. Over the years, the system has been praised for removing political scuffling over positions from the court, but it was also criticized for encouraging mediocracy: as soon as a justice is appointed, it is known when he or she would become court president, regardless of their level of competence. Like tenured professors, but with the power to ruin many more lives.
Elron, who is both a conservative and a Mizrahi Jew, was appointed in February 2017 by then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who forced him down the throat of then-Supreme Court President Miriam Na’or. Elron will turn 70 on September 20, 2025, and so, should he be appointed, would be the first conservative in decades to lead the court.
President Hayut was not amused. She announced Elron’s punishment on the same day he made his announcement, removing him from the 15-judge panel that will debate whether the court can compel Justice Minister Yariv Levin to assemble the committee to appoint judges in its traditional format: Justice Minister, 2 MKs, 2 members of the bar, and three justices.
Levin has refused to assemble the committee in its current format, preferring to wait instead for a change of its makeup through legislation during the Knesset winter session. Several petitions have been submitted against him, including one from the Attorney General, who won’t allow Levin to represent himself independently.
How do the mobs on Israel’s streets put it? De-Mo-Crat-Ya…
Ynet cited a “senior source in the judicial system” who commented on Elron’s decision: “In the midst of a campaign for the independence of the judicial system, an entirely political campaign, Elron turned his back on his friends and inserted himself as a Trojan horse in the Supreme Court. It’s like shooting inside the armored troops carrier, and a serious damage to the Supreme Court.”
One wonders who the “senior source” is, and what she plans to do after her retirement.
In about two weeks, Justice Elron will be part of the 15-judge panel debating the court’s right to revoke a basic law, which is part of Israel’s still-forming constitution. The coalition passed an amendment to the Basic Law: The Judicial that barred the courts from ruling based on their perception of the reasonability of a government action. It would be interesting to see whether his unprecedented move for the throne would influence the panel’s decision.
Traditionally, the courts abstained from touching a basic law, based on the teachings of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who based his entire judicial revolution on relying on basic laws. It goes to show you that the court under Hayut could be even more calloused and outrageous than the one under Barak.