On April 8, GT’s Los Angeles office hosted a lunch with Justice Salim Joubran of the Supreme Court of Israel. Justice Joubran is the first Arab Israeli Supreme Court Justice with a permanent appointment to the Court. The lunch was attended by a large number of the firm’s attorneys and clients.
Aaron Katz, a corporate associate in GT’s Tel Aviv office, pictured with Justice Salim Joubran
Justice Joubran is a charming, iconic, and some might say somewhat polarizing figure in Israeli public affairs, and the lunch was both informative and interesting. Justice Joubran was born in Haifa in 1947, and is extremely proud of his Haifa roots. He began practicing law in 1970, and in 1982 he was appointed as a judge to the Magistrates Court in Haifa. In 1993, he was elected as a judge of the District Court in Haifa, and in 2004 he was appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel. Justice Joubran acted as the Chair of Israel’s Central Elections Committee in 2015 and was awarded the Lord Marks Sieff Prize for initiatives to improve the relationship between the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel.
In preparation for the lunch I had read a few opinions that were written by Justice Joubran and his colleagues on the Supreme Court. The opinions proved to be fascinating (at least to me)–as Israel has no formal Constitution, I discovered, to my surprise, that some of the opinions looked to the U.S. Constitution for applicable principles and guidance. In addition, it quickly became clear that unlike in the U.S. (where the Separation of Powers doctrine would in most cases preclude it), the Israel Supreme Court does occasionally get involved in policy level decisionmaking. Just for example, Justice Joubran wrote one opinion that ended by mandating that the educational system expend substantial additional funds to expedite the time in which children were able to safely exit schools and take refuge in shelters in the event of a rocket attack.
I asked Justice Joubran whether he believed that we would ever see peace in the Middle East in our lifetime. He gently chided me for the question, replying that he could never answer a question like that because of his role as a justice; in fact, this became immediately obvious to me once he had replied. Over the course of the lunch we learned a great deal about the structure and operations of the Israeli judicial system, and the role of Israeli Arabs in that system. Demographically, Israel is comprised of approximately 75% Jews and 21% Arabs. The Israel Supreme Court currently has 15 justices, and it is Justice Joubran’s hope that in the not-too-distant future, there will be an additional Arab Israeli Supreme Court Justice, which would more closely reflect the Jewish/Arabic demographic makeup of Israel’s citizens.
The lunch afforded a unique window into the workings of the Israeli court system, and it was a great pleasure and privilege for our firm to have the opportunity to host this lunch with Justice Joubran.