This landmark Supreme Court case, decided on March 25, 2020, concerns the foundational principles of Balance of Power as well as Checks and Balances among the branches of government in a democratic state.
Key Concepts: Balance of Power, Checks and Balances
The concept of “balance of power” enforces the idea that the power of the state should be divided among different bodies of government, not centralized in one branch alone. The three branches are the legislative branch, which writes the laws, the executive branch, which enforces the laws, and the judicial branch, which interprets the laws. The concept of “checks and balances” states that each of the three branches has the power to “check,” or overturn, the actions carried out by the other two branches. This is to ensure that no one part of the government has too much power over the citizens.
In this case, the judicial body, or the Supreme Court, exercised its power by “checking,” or overruling, conduct on the part of the legislative body. The facts of the case are as follows:
The Facts of the Case
The Supreme Court issued an absolute order mandating the acting Speaker of the Knesset to convene the Knesset as soon as possible in order to elect a permanent speaker, with a deadline of March 25, 2020. However, on March 25, at the Knesset plenum’s session, the Speaker resigned and adjourned the meeting without electing a permanent speaker. The Legal Advisor to the Knesset informed the Speaker that pursuant to Section 5(a)(2) of the Knesset’s Rules of Procedure, his term of office only terminates 48 hours after submitting the letter of resignation, and “his resignation at this time does not impact the obligation to comply with the court order.” The Speaker responded that he did not intend to elect a permanent Speaker during the Knesset meeting. Therefore, the Speaker of the Knesset violated the Supreme Court absolute order.
At first, a Contempt of Court Ordinance was filed, followed by a new petition claiming that because of the Speaker’s violation of the court order, his term of office expired immediately. The Supreme Court was asked to declare that the most senior member of the Knesset is to be appointed as the Speaker of the Knesset until the election of a permanent Speaker. The Supreme Court scheduled an urgent hearing on the Motion for Contempt and the New Petition, to which the Speaker did not arrive.
The Legal Holding
The Legal Advisor to the Knesset argued that the Supreme Court must use its power granted to in Section 15 of the “Basic Law: The Judiciary” in order to enforce compliance with the absolute order. The Court ruled that the most senior member of the Knesset will be granted the authority to convene the Knesset plenum on March 26, 2020 to decide on the election of a permanent Speaker of the Knesset.
The most senior member, Amir Peretz, agreed to this outline. Thus, the Supreme Court officially granted this order, and emphasized that the mandate is still valid and binding even if the Speaker decides to retract his resignation.