ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court in Jerusalem is the highest court of Israel and the final court of appeals. The Court consists of 15 Justices and two Registrars. The head of the Supreme Court and of the whole judicial system is the President of the Supreme Court. Justice Esther Hayut currently serves in this position.
Under Section 20(b) of Basic Law: the Judiciary: "A rule established in the Supreme Court shall bind every court, save the Supreme Court". This section expresses the principle of binding precedent (vis-à-vis lower courts) and the principle that the Supreme Court is not bound by its precedents and can deviate from them.
The Powers of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court wears two hats: it is the highest Court of Appeal in the State of Israel, and also sits as a High Court of Justice
(Bagatz), hearing Petitions against various governmental authorities at first instance as well as against rulings of Appeals Tribunals.
When sitting as an appellate court, the Supreme Court hears appeals as of right and applications for leave to appeal, mainly from judgments and decisions pronounced in the District Courts.
1. Appeal as of right against civil, criminal and administrative judgments rendered in the District Courts at the first instance (including when sitting as a Court of Administrative Matters, as a Court of Admiralty, as a Standard Contracts Tribunal and as an Antitrust Tribunal).
2. Applications for leave to appeal against civil, criminal and administrative judgments rendered on appeal from the Magistrates Courts in the District Courts and the Military Court of Appeals; and applications for leave to appeal against other decisions (that are not judgments) of the District Courts. Leave to appeal is granted by the Court discretion in accordance with the criteria set out in legislation and case law. The relevant factors also depend on the nature of the proposed appeal.
As the High Court of Justice
(Bagatz) the Supreme Court hears petitions by any person (not only citizens or residents) against public bodies and governmental authorities. In this context, the types of cases heard by the Supreme Court include:
1. Constitutional and administrative petitions for judicial review of decisions and actions of the authorities and of legislation;
2. Petitions directed against judgments pronounced in the National Labor Court, in the Supreme Rabbinical Court and in other religious courts.
The Bench (Panel)
Generally speaking, the Supreme Court sits in panels of three. However, a single Justice may hear certain matters including interlocutory applications, temporary orders and applications for leave to appeal. In cases of special importance the Supreme Court can sit as an expanded panel with an uneven number of Justices.
The President of the Supreme Court, or another Justice in certain cases, may order the following:
1. A further hearing with an expanded panel of a judgment rendered by the Supreme Court. This power is exercised in rare cases where the precedent is inconsistent with previous rulings of the Supreme Court or is of special importance.
2. A retrial in a criminal case where a final ruling has been made. This only occurs in exceptional and rare cases in which new facts have come to light or concern has arisen that an injustice was done to the accused.
Approximately 10,000 proceedings are initiated in the Supreme Court annually. About 40% of these are the main proceedings, in other words, proceedings generally heard before a panel of Justices (Criminal, Civil and Administrative Appeals and Petitions to
Bagatz). The remainder of the proceedings (about 60%) are cases that are generally heard before a single Justice.