Justice Minister Yariv Levin and acting Supreme Court President Uzi Vogelman announced on Thursday that they will be appointing 14 retired judges to serve as temporary judges on courts around the country.
The temporary appointments will help ease the case burden on the courts. There are currently at least 20 empty seats on Israel’s court benches, owing to Levin’s refusal to convene the Judicial Selection Committee which appoints all permanent judges.
Levin has refused to convene the committee and appoint new judges owing to his stated desire to change the composition of the panel and give the government control over appointments.
In light of Levin’s ongoing refusal to appoint new judges, it appears that Vogelman came to a compromise with the justice minister to install the temporary judges as a stop-gap measure.
Of the 14 temporary judges, three will be appointed to the Tel Aviv District Court; one to the Lod-Central District Court; one to the Central District Magistrate’s Court; two to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court; three to the Haifa Magistrate’s Court; one to the Haifa District Court; and one in the Southern District Magistrate’s Court.
Another two judges will be appointed to the Tel Aviv labor court.
The temporary judges will be able to serve for a maximum of four years.
A hearing for petitions requesting that the High Court of Justice order Levin to convene the committee to appoint permanent judges is currently scheduled for November 12, and Levin has until November 5 to file his response to the petitions.
The appointment of the temporary judges might help Levin convince the court not to intervene in his decision not to convene the Judicial Selection Committee, since he will be able to argue that the dearth in manpower on the benches has been at least partially redressed through his agreement with Vogelman.
As of September, there were 20 unfilled positions on court benches around the country, with that number expected to rise to 42 by the end of the year, according to the Israel Courts Administration.
At the same time, the 2023 state budget provided funds for 11 new positions on the court benches, which are also yet to be filled, meaning that by the end of the year, there will be 53 unfilled judgeships.
A 2022 document produced by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, an institution of the Council of Europe, showed that Israel’s courts face far higher numbers of cases than the average in Europe, and have far fewer judges per head to hear them.
According to the document, 4.5 civil cases were filed per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020 in Israel, compared to an average of 2.2 in Europe. And 4.68 criminal cases were filed per 100,000 inhabitants in Israel in the same year, compared to 2.72 in Europe.
At the same time, Israel has 7.8 judges per 100,000 inhabitants compared to a European average of 22.2 judges.