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15 Av 5760 - August 16, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Insulted the Religious and the Handicapped
Barak Tries to Appoint Elyagon to the Regional Court

by B. Rabinowitz

Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon Barak recently tried to promote Oded Elyagon, Chief Justice of the Magistrate's Court of the southern region, as a judge in the Tel Aviv Regional Court. This appointment conflicts with a decision of the Committee for the Appointment of Judges not to promote Elyagon due to his hostile remarks about the religious and chareidi communities and additional groups.

Barak has been spearheading an effort to appoint Elyagon to the Regional Court in the wake of a decision of Justice Minister Yossi Beilin not to extend Elyagon's term of office as the Chief Justice of the Magistrate's Court of the south for more than two terms, which Elyagon has already completed. Actually Beilin extended Elyagon's term by half a year so that the latter would be able to complete the transfer of the Beersheba courts to their new building.

Justice Minister Yossi Beilin announced that at the end of Elyagon's term of office in Beersheba he would not continue to serve as a judge, due to his infamous speech in which he called the religious and chareidi sector lice and parasites. He said that they are gigantic mutations of lice, the size of human beings. Chief Justice Barak was present when some of these remarks were originally delivered.

Barak's proposal is supposed to be discussed at the next meeting of Committee for the Appointment of Judges, which is scheduled for the beginning of next month.

Sources in the judicial system say that Barak's desire to appoint Elyagon to the regional court stems from a sharp conflict which developed between Barak and Beilin concerning the appointment of two judges to the High Court which is supposed to take place in the near future.

Justice Eliezer Rivlin, who now has only a temporary appointment to the High Court, is supposed to receive a permanent appointment at the beginning of next month replacing Yaakov Kedmi. However Justice Minister Beilin said that his approval of that appointment is conditional on agreement of Barak that the next available appointment is a candidate of Beilin's choice. Beilin has proposed two candidates: the president of the Journalists Council Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, and the Attorney General, Eliakim Rubinstein.

Beilin says that it is time to change the current practice according to which the judges of the High Court, and mainly its Chief Justice, decide on all appointments to the High Court. He says that until now, mainly regional judges were appointed, but that the time has come to open the ranks of the High Court to other sectors as well.

Barak strongly opposes Beilin approach, and at this point it is not clear what will happen next in the appointments to the High Court.

High ranking sources said that it is because of the sharp dispute between Beilin and Barak that the latter has decided to try to promote Elyagon to the Regional Court. They say that Barak's actions totally negate a decision by a majority of the members of the Committee for the Appointment of judges not to promote Elyagon to the Regional Court. They also say that this decision was a compromise since members of the committee demanded that Elyagon be fired two years ago and removed entirely from the judicial system.

It should be noted that the Israel Bar Association also filed an appeal with the High Court against a proposal for Elyagon's promotion to the Regional Court some time ago, but in its response the government announced that Elyagon's appointment would be dropped from the committee's agenda. In the wake of this announcement the Bar Association withdrew its petition on this issue. Justice Eliyahu Matza said that the Bar could re-file its appeal on this issue if it felt that circumstances require such a measure.

In the deliberations of the judicial appointment committee Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said if it all agreed that Elyagon deserved to be punished for his remarks and his promotion be denied, why shouldn't the obvious step of totally dismissing him from the judicial system also be accepted? He said that the official reprimand of Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon Barak was not enough of a punishment. High Court Justice Mishael Cheshin agreed that Elyagon's behavior justifies his non-promotion, but he opposed divesting him of what he was already given.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni said in response to the latest developments: "If Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon Barak wants Elyagon to continue presiding as a judge, then he is correct in my opinion, because Elyagon is indeed suited to the judicial system as Barak sees it. Elyagon offended the handicapped, the chareidim and various other sectors, and every enlightened state would dismiss him on the spot. If two litigants appear before him, an irreligious one and a religious one, Elyagon would without a doubt be prejudiced toward the irreligious litigant. No proper judicial system would allow such a person continue in office for even one day."

Rabbi Gafni added that Aharon Barak wants the exclusive right to decide who is suitable to be a judge, and who isn't, who will be promoted and who not, and that he himself should be the sole power in that system. "It is not only that he decides ideological issues, but upon seeing that he has the total backing of a particular sector, Barak thinks that he can also decide in an autocratic manner who will be a judge and who will be promoted. The fact that a particular judge called an entire sector lice and leeches and he insulted the handicapped, doesn't bother him in the least, because if Barak decided that he should be a judge in the Regional Court, so must it be. In my opinion such a judicial system is warped and Elyagon suits it very well."

Rabbi Gafni noted that the Justice Minister Yossi Beilin recently told him that he is determined that Elyagon will not continue in any judicial capacity after he finishes the additional six month term, and that this is in accordance with the policy determined in the matter of the Judge Shlomo Bareli in Jerusalem, that judges against whom there are justified complaints will not be allowed to continue in their judicial positions. "I plan ask the Justice Minister again, and hope that he will fulfill his promises."


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