Israeli justice minister’s plan to rein in legal advisers angers attorney general

Israel’s attorney general opposes the justice minister’s plan to let ministers represent their positions before the Supreme Court even if those ministers’ legal advisers disagree. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s plan to allow ministers to present their cases before the Supreme Court even if their legal advisers are opposed prompted an angry response from Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported on Saturday.

“The situation in which ministers cannot bring their position before the court even in exceptional cases is unbearable and it is forbidden to shut the minister’s mouth,” Shaked said.

In the current system, legal advisers can decide not to represent a ministerial position. Shaked argued this leaves ministers at the whim of their legal advisers, who can stop the ministers from preventing their positions before the court.

Attorney general Mandleblit said in response to Shaked’s statements, “Only the Attorney General is authorized to determine what the law is and what position will be presented to the court. That’s how it has always been.”

“What you’re proposing is essentially that a minister or the government will act against the law,” Mandeblit said. “The one who is authorized to determine what is legal and what is not is only the attorney general.”

“Nowhere in the law does it authorize the legal advisers to determine what is legal and what is not,” Shaked said. “They’re definitely not authorized to say what is reasonable and what is not. This is an authority that you took for yourselves. You can’t continue to conduct things this way.”

As part of her “Hundred-Day Plan” for judicial reform, which she announced last Monday, Shaked called for ministers to have the ability to represent their positions in court and to choose their legal advisers, among other proposals.

In January 2018, Shaked led the Knesset to pass the first reading of a bill that would allow ministers to have a say in choosing their legal advisers. The bill has yet to pass its second and third reading.

The attorney general objected then, too, along with the political opposition, which warned that legal advisers would become rubber stamps for their ministers.

But Shaked dismissed this argument at that time. “Even if a legal adviser has the same values or worldview as a minister, that should not hurt the legal adviser’s ability to stand strong before the minister if his actions are inconsistent with the law or rules of good governance.”