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    Judicial appointments – Shof’tim

    The opening section of the sidra focusses on the administration of justice, culminating in the famous words, Tzedek tzedek tir’dof, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deut. 16:20).

    A basic requirement is lo takkir panim, “You shall not respect persons”. What this tells us is to be impartial and not be swayed by pressure or impressed by a person’s power (or lack of it). However, a similar rule had already been given in the Torah in Deut. 1:17.

    The Sifrei, followed by Rashi, suggests that there are two groups of people to whom this rule is addressed – the judges, and the authority which bears the responsibility for appointing judges.

    One should not say, “So-and-so looks distinguished: let me appoint him as a judge; so-and-so is a brave man, so-and-so is my relative, so-and-so lent me money: let me appoint him as a judge”.

    What a pertinent rule for our own century when all sorts of extraneous considerations weigh with those who appoint judges, who through these appointments endeavour to influence the outcome of judicial activity and mould the nature of public policy.

    An ethic of judicial appointments is urgently needed. Like so much else it needs community input. Political judgments on such matters are too often tainted with party or sectional bias.

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