Dominating Israeli headlines this week was the arrest of Effi Naveh, the head of the Israeli Bar Association, on suspicion of bartering judicial appointments for sex. In Israel, a nine-member panel—in which the head of the Bar Association sits ex officio—is responsible for the selection of all the countries’ judges. The panel’s other members are three sitting Supreme Court justices, another representative of the Bar Association, the justice minister, and three other Knesset members. Yitzḥak Ram argues that this system, intended to depoliticize the judicial system, in fact fosters corruption:
When such immense power is put into the hands of so very few, corruption becomes probable. . . . In democratic societies, [however], mechanisms are created to limit and monitor the government, to mitigate the concerns over potential corruption. One of these mechanisms is transparency. Sunlight, according to the former U.S. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, is the best disinfectant. [But] the judicial-selection committee is the civilian body most shielded from the sunlight. Its hearings are closed and its protocols secret. In 2008, then-Justice [and now chief justice] Esther Ḥayut ruled that the judicial-selection committee was not a “public authority” under the Freedom of Information Law, and therefore was not bound by it. [Ḥayut also co-chairs the selection committee] . . .
The concentration of power in the hands of a small committee that operates behind a thick curtain is an invitation for corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and other underhanded dealings. . . . [Its] makeup gives the judges a built-in advantage: they constitute one-third of the committee; they don’t have to deal with a coalition or an opposition; and they vote as one. . . . Due to the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” system, uniformity of thought has pervaded the Supreme Court, such that its monopoly over legal interpretation and principles has become almost entirely hegemonic. . . .
The system itself has to be changed: this pernicious committee has to be terminated. appointment power must be taken away from the judges, and judges should be appointed by elected officials in an open and transparent process, per the norm in Western democracies.