Kristine L Ming

Shaked hints at changes to judges’ selection to confront criticism of homogeneity

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday appeared to hint that changes had been made to the judges’ preparation course following criticism that the seminar, part of the process for selecting which judges to promote up the judicial chain, was used by liberal judges to vet out conservative judges.

More specifically, the justice minister, in remarks at the annual judges’ conference at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, said that the Israel Bar Association was now cooperating with the courts on the issue which would hopefully lead to more diverse judges.

However, Shaked’s spokesman did not reply for a clarification as to exactly what changes had been made and in a speech by Supreme Court President Miriam Naor at the same conference, it appeared that no changes had been made and that Naor flatly rejected all of the charges of improper vetting.

In her speech, Shaked referenced the criticism in recent weeks of the judges’ course as being to weed out conservatives who do not fit the liberal spent, noting that “I believe that the judicial establishment…needs to manifest the heterogeneity of Israeli society.”

Shaked called the course unique worldwide and stated that it must give equal chances to those lawyers coming to the judicial branch from the “public and private sectors.”

She added that in light of the recent criticism, judges must “regain the public’s confidence on the issue.”

But in her most striking statement, she hinted at changes having been made, saying, “I am happy with the cooperation created between the Judicial Administration and the Israel Bar Association and I believe that inclusion of additional officials in the judges’ preparation course will assist in advancing equality and transparency.”

In contrast, Naor rejected the criticism and said no changes have been made to the judicial selection process since it was amended in 2007.

Also, she explained that the purpose of the preparatory course was to address criticism from around a decade ago that many magistrate level judges were getting passed over for promotion to district court simply because the Supreme Court President did not sufficiently know them.

She said that part of the interviews that take place at the event are to enable the country’s top judge, or at least two former judges advising her, to get to know more judges since her job keeps her too busy to follow and review all of the 414 magistrate judges’ opinions and records for the 188 district court positions.

Naor also told the conference that when she first interviewed to be a judge, she explained her desire to be a judge as to give the right and correct decision based on an objective review of the issues – which she said is the only standard that judges are held to in seeking promotion.

However, Naor did not directly comment one way or another specifically on greater involvement by the Bar Association in the seminar.

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