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Israel lawmakers approve new rules for selecting Supreme Court justices

The Israeli Knesset [official website] passed a new law on Tuesday that changes the rules governing the selection of Supreme Court [official website] justices. The contentious law has been criticized [AP report] for undermining the independence of the judiciary in an effort to further a conservative judge favored by the government. Under the old law, Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis would have been precluded [Haaretz report] from standing for chief justice because requirements that the chief justice be able to serve for three years before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. The new law changes that to two years and would allow Grunis to become chief justice. Critics also claim that a separate bill passed by a legislative panel would allow lawmakers to stack the Supreme Court judicial selection committee. Many fear the new laws will influence judicial decisions, impede upon the rights of the press and be used to harass liberal groups.

The power of the Israel Supreme Court was restricted [JURIST report] in 2008 when a bill was passed granting the Knesset authority to revise laws overturned by the court. The controversial measure, proposed [JURIST report] in 2007 by Israeli Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann provided the first statutory guide on the Supreme Court's annulment power. That power was interpreted to reach all Knesset-passed measures deemed to contravene one of the Basic Laws [text], the bill reduced that scope to allow Supreme Court annulment only of those laws contravening the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation [text]. The proposal also granted the Knesset authority to revise laws overturned by the Supreme Court, thereby renewing those laws' validity. In those cases, the Knesset could overturn a Supreme Court ruling with an ordinary one-round of voting rather than the 61-vote majority in the 120-member body in three rounds of voting currently required to overturn the Supreme Court.

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