Eliezer Rivlin, known as a liberal bulwark in the Supreme Court, will mark his 70th birthday on Monday by stepping down after six years on the bench.
Rivlin has served as a Supreme Court justice since a temporary appointment in 1999, which was made permanent the following year, and as vice president of the court since 2006. He began his career as a traffic court judge in 1976 and worked his way through the ranks of the Israeli justice system.
By law, all justices must step down when they reach age 70.
Earlier this month, Rivlin was the runner-up candidate to replace Micha Lindenstrauss as state comptroller. In the third round of Knesset voting, Rivlin received 40 votes to 68 for district court judge Yosef Shapira.
Rivlin has long been considered one of the more liberal voices in the Supreme Court. In 2006, he voted in favor of acquitting journalist Amnon Danker for referring to right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir as a Nazi. While his was a minority opinion in that case, it served to highlight his views on freedom of expression.
His stand regarding freedom of expression was further cemented in the case of Captain R., an officer in the IDF Givati brigade who was accused of “confirming the kill” of 13-year-old Iman al-Hams in October 2004 in the southern Gaza Strip. “Confirming the kill” is an Israeli military euphemism for shooting somebody at point blank range to ensure they are killed, and is official banned by the army.
After his acquittal of all charges in 2009, Captain R. successfully sued Ilana Dayan, the Channel 2 journalist whose investigative documentary first reported the story, for libel.
In February of this year, Rivlin overturned the decision, ruling that journalists have a responsibility to report on facts, even if the report is later shown to be mistaken.