The Judicial Selection Committee on Friday appointed judge Asher Grunis as the Supreme Court’s next president and chief justice to replace Dorit Beinisch, who retires on Feb. 28.
Unlike Beinisch and her predecessor former Chief Justice Aharon Barak, Grunis’ past opinions and statements suggest he subscribes to a much more conservative legal worldview than them. Some have even accused Beinisch and Barak of judicial overreach that interferes with government decision-making, particularly in landmark rulings on security matters and human rights.
Grunis’ appointment was made possible after the Knesset passed the “Grunis Law” in January, allowing the Judicial Selection Committee to appoint a judge whose age is within three years of age 70, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices.
National Union MK Yaakov (Katzeleh) Katz had submitted the legislation that allows judges to assume the Supreme Court’s presidency even if they have two years to serve before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. The law had previously restricted such judges from becoming chief justice.
The law’s passage paved the way for Grunis - the only candidate for chief justice – to be appointed. He was selected based on seniority, the system used to appoint chief justices since the establishment of Israel - but one that is not anchored in Israeli law.
Eight of the nine members of the Judicial Selection Committee voted to appoint Grunis to the post of chief justice, with the exception of MK David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, who abstained from the vote to protest the seniority system – which effectively banned other candidates from contending for the job.
Beinisch and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman called Grunis on Friday afternoon to congratulate him on his appointment.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who sits on the Judicial Selection Committee, welcomed Grunis’ appointment, and said, “Justice Grunis is an excellent judge and his selection as chief justice is both deserving and welcome. I am sure that President Grunis will continue the policy of protecting individuals’ rights and preventing harm to citizens, especially minorities. At the same time, I’m sure he will lead the Supreme Court with a policy of self-restraint, understanding that not everything is subject to judgment, and that there are matters the public decides when it elects a government once every four years.”
National Union MK Uri Ariel, another committee member, said, “Judge Grunis’ appointment as chief justice marks an important day for all proponents of justice and democracy. He is an excellent judge, of great stature, who I am sure will leave his stamp on the Supreme Court and will work to strengthen the public’s trust in the justice system, which provides justice for all.”
Attorney Doron Barzilai, head of the Israel Bar Association, also congratulated Grunis on his appointment on Friday, calling it “an unparalleled appropriate and professional decision.”
Grunis will begin his term as chief justice on March 1 and serve until January 2015.