Bench press: The path to a judge’s job revealed

The case of Eti Craif, who was appointed to serve as a judge on the Netanya Magistrate’s Court – despite not making the cut when she came up before the Judicial Training Committee – has shone a light on the path that people take before being appointed to the bench in Israel. In a special report, Shomrim reveals for the first time what goes on behind the appointment process: the trick questions, the behind-the-scenes pressure, the group dynamics and why are only one-third of the candidates Arabs? “Many people just don’t understand what’s wanted of them,” says one judge on the panel. Another senior lawyer assets that “Eti Craif is right when she says you need connections and acquaintances.”


The case of Eti Craif, who was appointed to serve as a judge on the Netanya Magistrate’s Court – despite not making the cut when she came up before the Judicial Training Committee – has shone a light on the path that people take before being appointed to the bench in Israel. In a special report, Shomrim reveals for the first time what goes on behind the appointment process: the trick questions, the behind-the-scenes pressure, the group dynamics and why are only one-third of the candidates Arabs? “Many people just don’t understand what’s wanted of them,” says one judge on the panel. Another senior lawyer assets that “Eti Craif is right when she says you need connections and acquaintances.”


The case of Eti Craif, who was appointed to serve as a judge on the Netanya Magistrate’s Court – despite not making the cut when she came up before the Judicial Training Committee – has shone a light on the path that people take before being appointed to the bench in Israel. In a special report, Shomrim reveals for the first time what goes on behind the appointment process: the trick questions, the behind-the-scenes pressure, the group dynamics and why are only one-third of the candidates Arabs? “Many people just don’t understand what’s wanted of them,” says one judge on the panel. Another senior lawyer assets that “Eti Craif is right when she says you need connections and acquaintances.”


Chen Shalita

Photos: Eti Craif (Screenshot from "Uvda" at Keshet 12), Government Press Office - Mark Neyman, Amos Ben Gershom, Moshe Milner

February 10, 2022

Summary

There is a huge gulf between ousted judge Eti Craif’s assessment of her own performance at the selection process held by the Judicial Training Committee and how those running the course evaluated her. The overall grade she received (4.5 out of 10) is far below the passing grade of 7.

Craif is not the only person in this situation. Among those who did not pass the evaluation are many candidates who left feeling pleased with themselves. They were hugely disappointed when the examiners – comprising a High Court justice, two District Court judges, two occupational therapists and, in recent years, a senior lawyer – had a view different view of their potential as judges. According to a report published by the Courts’ Directorate summing up 2021, only one-third of those who applied for evaluation were approved to participate in the course, and only one-third of them successfully completed it.

It is not always a case of failing to read reality. “A large proportion of people simply don’t understand what it is that we want from them,” one of the judges on the evaluation panel told Shomrim. “There are those who think that it’s best to talk a lot and to be assertive. They think that’s what we want. But being overly opinionated is a very bad quality for a judge. It’s more important for us to see that the candidates can accept other opinions, even those they do not agree with. The things that we are looking for – and this is true of the psychologists on the evaluation committee – are not necessarily what people think we’re looking for.”

In the past, the assessment course lasted for five days in a residential setting, much like a boarding school, and included 21 participants. However, the pandemic, coupled with a backlog created by the fact that the Judicial Selection Committee was paralyzed in the past two years when Israel was ruled mainly by transition governments, has led to a change. The course is now held over three intensive and longer days, still held in a boarding school format, and the number of participants has been cut to 12.

“I also wondered how it is possible to assess someone for such a fateful position as judge in just three days,” says one of the evaluators, “but the intensity of the course brings certain things out. Something that may be concealed on the first day will be exposed on the second. It’s a very demanding three-day course for the candidates and the team.”

This is a summary of shomrim's story published in Hebrew.
To read the full story click here.