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Israeli Supreme Court justice bucks tradition, submits candidacy for court president

Unprecedented move is believed to be related to judicial reform controversy

Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron arrives for court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yosef Elron submitted a letter to Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Wednesday, proposing his candidacy for court president when Hayut retires on Oct. 16, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The role of Supreme Court chief justice in Israel is typically appointed by seniority, with the longest-serving judge submitting their name to the Judicial Selection Committee.

The Supreme Court president is then chosen by a simple majority of the Judicial Selection Committee, 5 of its 9 members.

Levin has yet to convene the Judicial Selection Committee, with some analysts believing he is waiting for Hayut to retire.

When Hayut retires, the next most senior justice, Uzi Vogelman, is expected to decline the role, due to being close to retirement age himself. The position was expected to be taken by Justice Isaac Amit, who has served longer than the remaining justices.

The two justices, Elron and Amit, have a history of rivalry dating to their time as judges in the Haifa District Court. Amit reportedly opposed Elron’s selection to the court bench in 2017.

Elron is seen as being more supportive of the coalition’s judicial reforms, however, he claims it is not the motive behind his letter for candidacy. Furthermore, despite claims from opposition members, Elron said his “announcement was not coordinated with the justice minister.”

According to a local Walla! news report, Elron submitted his candidacy because of the “bad blood” between him and Amit and also claimed to have only submitted his name after asking Justice Noam Sohlberg to submit his own name.

Not everyone is convinced, however.

Levin has praised Elron before and he is known as a conservative judge.

Guy Lurie of the Israel Democracy Institute said: “Without the seniority system, the concern is that Supreme Court justices will be incentivized to find favor with politicians due to competition for being appointed Chief Justice.”

Following Elron’s letter, Chief Justice Hayut removed him from the High Court panel set to hear petitions regarding Levin’s refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee on Sept. 7 as scheduled.

If the Judicial Selection Committee does not convene before Hayut’s retirement in October, the role will automatically be appointed to Hayut's vice president, Justice Uzi Vogelman.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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