Joubran doesn't get it
by Jonathan Rosenblum
May 18, 2005
Something amazing happened in the Israeli Supreme Court last week. Prior to a hearing on petitions brought by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to force the government to comply with the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the security fence, Justice Salim Joubran recused himself on the grounds that one of the petition deals with a section of the fence adjacent to a West Bank village in which his brother lives. The decision will have an effect on a member of my family, Justice Joubran said in explanation of his decision.
Such a recusal would be matter-of-course in most advanced judicial systems. But not in Israel. Court Vice-President Justice Theodore Or famously refused to recuse himself from hearing a case in which the appellate counsel for one of the parties was a close personal friend, as was a key witness in the lower court proceedings. The Code of Ethics for Judges, drafted by former Court President Meir Shamgar, requires recusal in such cases. But Or decided that the Code of Ethics is only advisory.
Remarkably the Supreme Court, which is notorious for imposing rigorous legal standards on the other branches of government that have no basis in Knesset legislation, upheld Or’s position. Apparently when it comes to the Supreme Court itself even the most clearly drafted standards do not apply.
Or's refusal to recuse himself was just a reflection of the degree to which the justices regularly treat the Court as if it were a private fiefdom, appearances be damned. It is a common practice for them to select one another's children for coveted judicial clerkships. And Elisheva Barak's appointment to the National Labor Court was pushed through by the judicial selection committee headed by her husband, despite the object of the President of the National Labor Court. Though her husband is normally most solicitious of the prerogatives of court presidents to veto the candidacy of unwanted judges, he made an exception in his wife's case.
Maariv investigative journalist Yoav Yitzchak revealed recently that the daughter of the next Court President, Justice Dorit Beinisch, was given a position in the State Prosecutor’s office in violation of civil service regulations. That appointment was pushed ahead by former State Prosecutor Edna Arbel, whose own successful candidacy for the Court was secured by her good friend Dorit Beinisch. One hand washes the other. In her new position, the younger Beinisch will appear regularly be before the Supreme Court of which her mother is a member and future leader. Anything wrong with that?
So why did Joubran depart from the accepted norms for Israeli Supreme Court justices? I suspect because he is an Israeli Arab, and by definition not a member of the ruling branja. As such he has not yet absorbed the branja's conviction that whatever is good for them is good for all.
Related Topics: Israeli Supreme Court
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