Supreme Court of Israel

Supreme Court of Israel

The Supreme Court (Hebrew: בית המשפט העליון, "Beit haMishpat ha'Elyon" ) is at the head of the court system in the State of Israel. It is the highest judicial instance. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem. The area of its jurisdiction is the entire State. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme Court itself. This is the principle of binding precedent ("stare decisis") in Israel.



Supreme Court Justices, as well as all other judges, are appointed by the President of the State upon the nomination of "the Judges' Nominations Committee". The Nominations Committee is composed of nine members: three Justices of the Supreme Court (including the President of the Court among them), two Ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice), two Members of the Knesset and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The Minister of Justice is the chairperson of the Committee. In other words, a modified Missouri Plan.

The three organs of state—the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government—as well as the bar association are represented in the Judges’ Nominations Committee. Thus, the shaping of the judicial body, through the manner of judicial appointment, is carried out by all the authorities together.


The following are qualified to be appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court: a person who has held office as a judge of a District Court for a period of five years, or a person who is inscribed, or entitled to be inscribed, in the roll of advocates, and has for not less than ten years –continuously or intermittently, and of which five years at least in Israel - been engaged in the profession of an advocate, served in a judicial capacity or other legal function in the service of the State of Israel or other service as designated in regulations in this regard, or has taught law at a university or a higher school of learning as designated in regulations in this regard. An "eminent jurist” can also be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Number of judges

The number of Supreme Court justices is determined by a resolution of the Knesset. Usually, twelve Justices serve in the Supreme Court. At the present time there are fourteen Supreme Court Justices. At the head of the Supreme Court and at the head of the judicial system as a whole stands the President of the Supreme Court, and at his or her side, the Deputy President.


A judge's term ends when he or she reaches 70 years of age, resigns, dies, is appointed to another position that disqualifies him or her, or is removed from office.

Current justices

As of September 2007, the Supreme Court Justices are:
*President Dorit Beinisch
*Justice Eliezer Rivlin
*Justice Ayala Procaccia
*Justice Edmond Levy
*Justice Asher Dan Grunis
*Justice Miriam Naor
*Justice Edna Arbel
*Justice Elyakim Rubinstein
*Justice Salim Joubran
*Justice Esther Hayut
*Justice Hanan Meltzer
*Justice Uzi Fogelman
*Justice Yosef Eilon

Magistrate Court Judge Yigal Mersel serves as Registrar for the Court.


Below is a list of presidents of the Supreme Court:
*Moshe Smoira (1948-1954)
*Yitzhak Olshan (1954-1965)
*Shimon Agranat (1965-1976)
*Yoel Zussman (1976-1980)
*Moshe Landoy (1980-1982)
*Yitzhak Kahan (1982-1983)
*Meir Shamgar (1983-1995)
*Aharon Barak (1995-2006)
*Dorit Beinisch (2006-present)


The Supreme Court is an appellate court, as well as the High Court of Justice.

Appellate court

As an appellate court, the Supreme Court considers cases on appeal (both criminal and civil) on judgments and other decisions of the District Courts. It also considers appeals on judicial and quasi-judicial decisions of various kinds, such as matters relating to the legality of Knesset elections and disciplinary rulings of the Bar Association.

High Court of Justice

As the High Court of Justice (Hebrew: "Beit Mishpat Gavoha Le'Zedek" בית משפט גבוה לצדק; also known by its initials as "Bagatz" בג"ץ), the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, primarily in matters regarding the legality of decisions of State authorities: Government decisions, those of local authorities and other bodies and persons performing public functions under the law, and direct challenges to the constitutionality of laws enacted by the Knesset. The court has broad discretionary authority to rule on matters in which it considers it necessary to grant relief in the interests of justice, and which are not within the jurisdiction of another court or tribunal. The High Court of Justice grants relief through orders such as injunction, mandamus and Habeas Corpus, as well as through declaratory judgments.

Further hearing

The Supreme Court can also sit at a “further hearing” on its own judgment. In a matter on which the Supreme Court has ruled - whether as a court of appeals or as the High Court of Justice - with a panel of three or more justices, it may rule at a further hearing with a panel of a larger number of justices. A further hearing may be held if the Supreme Court makes a ruling inconsistent with a previous ruling or if the Court deems that the importance, difficulty or novelty of a ruling of the Court justifies such hearing.


A special power, unique to the Supreme Court, is the power to order a “retrial” on a criminal matter in which the defendant has been convicted by a final judgment. A ruling to hold a retrial may be made where the Court finds that evidence provided in the case was based upon lies or was forged; where new facts or evidence are discovered that are likely to alter the decision in the case in favor of the accused; where another has meanwhile been convicted of carrying out the same offense and it appears from the circumstances revealed in the trial of that other person that the original party convicted of the offense did not commit it; or, where there is a real concern for miscarriage of justice in the conviction. In practice, a ruling to hold a retrial is very rarely made.


The Supreme Court, both as an appellate court and the High Court of Justice, is normally constituted of a panel of three Justices. A Supreme Court Justice may rule singly on interim orders, temporary orders or petitions for an "order nisi", and on appeals on interim rulings of District Courts, or on judgments given by a single District Court judge on appeal, and on a judgment or decision of the Magistrates’ Courts. The Supreme Court sits as a panel of five justices or more in a ‘further hearing’ on a matter in which the Supreme Court sat with a panel of three justices. The Supreme Court may sit as a panel of a larger uneven number of justices than three in matters that involve fundamental legal questions and constitutional issues of particular importance.

Presiding judge

In a case on which the President of the Supreme Court sits, the President is the Presiding Judge; in a case on which the Deputy President sits and the President does not sit, the Deputy President is the Presiding Judge; in any other case, the Judge with the greatest length of service is the Presiding Judge. The length of service, for this purpose, is calculated from the date of the appointment of the Judge to the Supreme Court


The building was donated to Israel by Dorothy de Rothschild. [New York Times - Obituary article for Dorothy de Rothschild |] Outside the President's Chamber is displayed the letter Ms Rothschild wrote to Prime Minister Shimon Peres expressing her intention to donate a new building for the Supreme Court. [ The Judicial Authority - Tour of Supreme Court - The Presidents Chamber | ]

It was designed by Ram Karmi and Ada Karmi-Melamede and opened in 1992. According to the critic Ran Shechori, the building is a "serious attempt to come to grips with the local building tradition". He writes that,

It makes rich and wide-ranging references to the whole lexicon of Eretz-Israel building over the centuries, starting with Herodian structures, through the Hellenistic tomb of Absalom, the Crusaders, Greek Orthodox monasteries, and up to the British Mandate period. This outpouring is organized in a complex, almost baroque structure, built out of contrasts light-shade, narrow-wide, open-closed, stone-plaster, straight-round, and a profusion of existential experiences. [ [ "Architecture in Israel 1995-1998", The Israel Review of Arts and Letters - 1995/99-100] ]

Writing in the New York Times Paul Goldberger argues that it is "Israel's finest public building" achieving "a remarkable and exhilarating balance between the concerns of daily life and the symbolism of the ages". He notes that the design is complex, creating a series of interrelated geometric patterns,

There is no clear front door and no simple pattern to the organization. The building cannot be described solely as long, or solely as rounded or as being arranged around a series of courtyards, though from certain angles, like the elephant described by the blind man, it could be thought to be any one of these. The structure, in fact, consists of three main sections: a square library wing within which is set a round courtyard containing a copper-clad pyramid, a rectangular administrative wing containing judges' chambers arrayed around a cloistered courtyard and a wing containing five courtrooms, all of which extend like fingers from a great main hall. [ [ Paul Goldberger, "ARCHITECTURE VIEW; A Public Work That Ennobles As It Serves", "New York Times", Aug 13, 1995] ]


ee also

*Israeli Supreme Court Opinions on the West Bank Barrier

External links

* [ Israeli Judicial Authority]
* [ Jewish Virtual Library: The Judicial Branch]
* [ Internal Photos]
* [ Various photos of the Court]

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