Levin tells court it has no authority to force judicial selection panel to meet

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Justice Minister Yariv Levin tells the High Court of Justice that it has no authority to force him to convene a key panel that nominates judges, since he alone holds the authority to decide the Judicial Selection Committee should meet, a step he has refused to take for months as the government seeks changes to the critical body.

Levin’s position is presented in response to petitions asking the court to order him to summon the committee on the basis that he “lacks the authority” to decide not to convene the panel, which appoints all new judges in Israel. The petitions argue that the justice minister’s behavior amounts to an illegitimate abuse of authority.

In his response, written by an independent legal team since the attorney general opposes his position, Levin argues that his discretion on whether to convene the committee “is part of a constitutional arrangement balancing power between the branches of government,” and that court intervention on the issue would “severely harm the principle of the separation of powers.”

He also indicates there is no purpose in convening the committee, as it would be unable to agree on any appointments due to ongoing severe political divisions in the country. Doing so would “harm the purpose of the law” to appoint judges, he writes, and only worsen the conflict.

Levin has said in media interviews that he wants the government to have a majority on the committee, essentially giving it absolute say over the makeup of Israel’s highest benches. He has said he will not convene it until it has “an appropriate” composition, referring to his desire to pass legislation reducing down non-government representation on the panel.

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