Israel Reflections 2019–Justice Aharon Barak

It is always such a highlight of our trip to hear from Justice Barak and this was no exception–student Lucas Baker reflected on the meeting:

It was an incredible opportunity to meet with retired Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak. Rarely do law students have the chance to learn from a true giant in the law. Justice Barak lectured our group about the general contours of Israel’s Judiciary and non-constitutional system, before we took a deeper dive into a number of other topics.

The Chief Justice fielded questions regarding differing judicial philosophies between the United States and Israel. With incredible insight, Justice Barak discussed how the public confirmation proceedings in the United States lead to manufactured and politicized “judicial philosophies.” In Israel, on the other hand, the confirmation process is not public and therefore not politicized, which allows for consensus in rules of interpretation. In Israel there are no “activist” nor “originalist” judges. Rather, judges have a much more uniform approach to the law. After witnessing the recent circus of a confirmation process here in the United States, it was fascinating to hear that there is little political split among judges, and no divergence in methods of interpretation in Israel.

Another key takeaway from Justice Barak’s lecture involved dispute resolution. When asked what his thoughts are on ADR, Justice Barak emphasized the importance of party “buy in,” that is, party consent to any resolution to a dispute. For this reason ADR, to him, has a leg up on binding court decisions from a third party judge. ADR allows for less hostility towards the final result, and better feelings amongst the parties who consented to it.

To be able to engage in a scholarly discussion about comparative law, judicial philosophies, and dispute resolution with the “John Marshall” of Israel was an experience we will never forget. I am so grateful for the opportunity to engage with such a brilliant and influential jurist.

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