Israeli Justice visits Cooley-- Salim Joubran -on Israel's Judicial system

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

The Supreme Court of Israel is the busiest court in the world, handling 10,000 cases a year -- or 100 times more than the highest courts in both Great Britain and the United States.

''It's unbelievable,'' said Justice Salim Joubran, speaking Tuesday at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus. ''The main reason is because it's the only place in the world where every citizen, every resident can apply directly to the Supreme Court.''

That often means working 12-hour days, said Joubran, the first permanent member of the Israeli Supreme Court from the Israeli Arab community.

''We don't complain because we want to give the feeling to every citizen of the state that somebody hears him and his rights are protected,'' he said.

Joubran was nearing the end of his 10-day visit to the United States, which included stops at a handful of law schools. The trip was sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Speaking to a room of around 100 people, Joubran presented a brief primer on Israel's judiciary system, which is widely respected by Israelis. He expressed pride in the fact that five of the 15 Supreme Court justices, including President Dorit Beinisch, are women, as are more than 70 percent of the Israel's attorneys general and more than 50 percent of law school students.

Though Israel lacks a written Constitution, Joubran said democracy there is strong even without it.

Asked by an audience member how the Court could possibly handle so many cases, Joubran explained that while every situation is read and considered, only about 30 percent end up as issues presented to the Supreme Court. Every judge is aided by two law clerks and two legal assistants.

Joubran lives in the city of Haifa, where Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians get along well together, he said, because they treat each other with respect and tolerance.

He said he and his neighbors often invite each other into their homes to share in their traditions and festivities, such as his Christmas tree, or their Passover Seders or celebration of Muhammed's birthday.

A graduate of the Hebrew University law faculty, Joubran was a lawyer, magistrate and district court judge before he joined the Supreme Court. He has served as a lecturer at the law faculty of the University of Haifa, and is the founder and board member of several organizations devoted to improving Jewish-Arab relations.

Joubran expects to retire from the court at the required age of 70, or in about six years.

''I think this is good, because we work very hard,'' he said, adding that after retirement, he'll have more time to help his family, travel, and meet more ''good people'' such as those he'd just met in Auburn Hills.

Published: Thu, May 19, 2011