This position paper was written in response to reports that the coalition is set to advance a new version of the “Legal Counsels Law” introduced in the past, whereby the opinion of legal counsels of government ministries will not be binding, ministers will be free to choose different legal representation and to decide what position will be presented on their behalf, and the hiring process will be reviewed by the Knesset Constitution Committee.
Zulat’s position is that this is a destructive proposal, as it will eliminate the role of legal counsels as “gatekeepers,” will harm the rule of law and human/civil rights, and will increase corruption. Here are the reasons why:
- It is a sequel to previous proposals by the Right to make legal counsels positions of trust to be filled at the ministers’ discretion and an extension of the “Reign of Clerks” campaign launched in 2015 in the wake of the suspicions and criminal charges against Netanyahu and the Likud’s efforts to entrench its position as the country’s ruling party.
- It will hurt the status of the Attorney General as it will secure the “right” of ministers who wish to circumvent or defy her instructions to seek separate legal advice. Given that her instructions are supposed to be implemented by the legal counsels, this could potentially result in a serious violation of human/civil rights.
- Government ministries will be able to draft bills without seeking the opinion of their legal counsels.
- There is no justification for changing the hiring process of legal counsels and the proposal to have this process reviewed by the Knesset Constitution Committee is only intended to harm their status.