Two new Israeli Supreme Court justices were confirmed by Israel’s judiciary committee this week, changing the makeup of a historically liberal judiciary body.
Alex Stein, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, will become Israel’s first Supreme Court justice born in the former Soviet Union. Ofer Grosskopf is a Tel Aviv District judge, who at 49 is younger than most appointments to the Supreme Court, where justices serve until the age of 70. The two will replace justices Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham, whose terms end this year.
Stein is considered conservative, while Grosskopf is more liberal. Most of court’s justices are liberal, and the court is known to be one of the most activist courts in the Western world, with little oversight combined with broad powers to cancel legislation and overturn agreements signed by Israel’s executive branch of government.
“This is a festive day for the Israeli judiciary. Stein and Grosskopf are legal luminaries who come from diverse and unique backgrounds and no one disputes their merit,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. “When I took office, one of the goals I set was to increase diversity in the Supreme Court. I have no doubt their contribution to the Supreme Court will leave its mark on the history of the Israeli judiciary.”
Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, a member of the Judicial Nominations Committee, lauded the successful nomination of Stein as “the correction of a historical injustice toward former Soviet Union immigrants,” who comprise 1.4 million of Israel’s citizens and “until recently have not been properly represented in the legal system.”
Stein was born in the former Soviet Union before he moved to Israel where he finished high school, served in the military and received his law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of London.
He has lived in the U.S. for the past 14 years and joined Brooklyn Law School as a professor in 2016. While living in the U.S., he maintained his involvement in the Israeli legal academy and practice.
“I am thrilled and humbled,” said Stein. “Leaving legal academia — and, in particular, Brooklyn Law School, where I found a great home and intellectual powerhouse with prolific world-class faculty and highly motivated students — isn’t easy. But I very much look forward to serving the people of Israel and its legal system.”
Stein is considered an expert on torts, medical malpractice, evidence and general legal theory. He has written three books — “Foundations of Evidence Law,” “Tort Liability Under Uncertainty” and “An Analytical Approach to Evidence: Text, Cases and Problems” — and often combines law with economic theories and moral philosophy.
Stein was appointed along with Grosskopf to fill two open seats vacated by retiring justices.
“Professor Stein is one of the world’s brilliant legal minds,” said Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard. “In the short time he has been with us, he has made an enormous positive impact on the Brooklyn Law School community — as a teacher, a scholar and a wonderfully energetic and engaged colleague and friend.
“We could not be prouder of his well-deserved appointment to the Israeli Supreme Court, where we know he will make important and lasting contributions as a jurist — as he has as a law professor and practicing lawyer,” Allard continued.
Reporting by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and JNS.