Miriam Naor Becomes President of the Supreme Court

Miriam Naor Becomes President of the Supreme Court

Melanie Goldberg
February 27, 2015

On January 15th, Miriam Naor was officially appointed Israel’s 11th Supreme Court President, replacing Asher D. Grunis. She will serve until September 2017, when she will reach the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

Grunis, who had sometimes been at odds with Naor in their judicial decisions (for example, here, here, and here), congratulated her on “entering the holy of holies of Israel’s democracy.” He left the bench declaring that the “power of this country is not just from military and economic power, it also comes somewhat, or mostly, from the state’s Jewish and democratic character and from a strong and independent judicial system.”

Naor, who had served as Deputy President since 2012, is a widely admired attorney and judge. “If I were a criminal, heaven forbid, or suddenly got into trouble and had to stand trial before a judge whose integrity and fairness I trust, I would choose Justice Miriam Naor,” says former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak.

Professor Alex Stein of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York describes Naor as “a truly remarkable judge. Her career spans across all Israeli courts…as well as every possible type of case: criminal, civil, administrative, and constitutional. Her most salient characteristics are rigor, erudition, practicality, and an all-things-considered decision tailored to the specifics of the case.”

President Naor was born in Jerusalem in 1947 to a family rooted in the revisionist Zionist tradition, generally regarded as the precursor of today’s Likud party. Her husband, Aryeh Naor, served as Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s cabinet secretary from 1977 to 1982. Many other family members were also members of Begin’s government. As a result, Naor is generally assumed to be a judicial conservative. Nevertheless, since joining the Supreme Court, Naor has kept a relatively low profile.  According to the Jerusalem Post, this has given her an air of mystery, leaving Court-watchers wondering whether as President she will tend toward the model of judicial activism often associated with President Barak, or instead toward the model of judicial restraint represented by her immediate predecessor, President Grunis.

Naor completed her law studies cum laude at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1971 and was admitted to the bar the following year. For the next seven years she served as deputy state attorney in the Ministry of Justice. Viewed as a legal prodigy, she was the youngest judge in Israel when she was appointed to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 1980. After leaving the court, she served in various other capacities as a judge in Jerusalem’s District Court, until her appointment to the Supreme Court in June 2003.

The retirement of President Grunis and elevation of President Naor created a vacancy on the 15-member Court which has been filled by Anat Baron, formerly a Judge of the Tel Aviv District Court. She brings the number of female justices to four.