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Aharon Barak became president of the Israeli Supreme Court on this date in 1995. He would serve until 2006, and was the principal creator of the “Constitution Revolution” (his phrase), by which Israeli courts were empowered to treat Israel’s Basic Laws as the country’s constitution and strike down laws that the courts judge to be inconsistent with the rights embodied in those Basic Laws. Barak was born in 1936 in Lithuania and spent three years in the Kovno Ghetto under Nazi occupation before coming to Jerusalem in 1947. According to Richard Posner (in The New Republic), “Among the rules of law that Barak’s judicial opinions have been instrumental in creating that have no counterpart in American law are that judges cannot be removed by the legislature, but only by other judges; that any citizen can ask a court to block illegal action by a government official, even if the citizen is not personally affected by it ... that any government action that is “unreasonable” is illegal... that a court can forbid the government to appoint an official who had committed a crime (even though he had been pardoned) or is otherwise ethically challenged ... that in the name of ‘human dignity’ a court can compel the government to alleviate homelessness and poverty; and that a court can countermand military orders...”
“He is the judge or justice in my lifetime whom, I think, best represents and has best advanced the values of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice.” —U.S. Justice Elena Kagan