Hawaii Bar Journal
May 2007 #2.
Interview with Aharon Barak
Hawaii State Bar JournalMay 2007Interview with Aharon Barakby Liam SkillingWhen Aharon Barak retired from the Israeli Supreme Court last fall, his tenure on the court spanned twenty-eight years, eleven as the Court's President. He presided over a Court that delivered opinions on issues of enormous political and ethical importance, including the use of torture in terrorism investigations, the detention of suspected terrorists, and the role of religion in a Jewish state. President Barak holds numerous honorary degrees from leading universities around the world and he recently received the 2006 Justice Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. He has published eleven books, including The Judge in a Democracy (2006), Purposive Interpretation in Law (2005), and Judicial Discretion (1989) in English.
President Barak recently visited the William S. Richardson School of Law as the first Bright Jurist in Residence. This program, honoring Judge Myron H. Bright of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, will alternate with the established Jurist in Residence program that brings a Justice of the United States Supreme Court to Hawai'i.
Over several weeks, President Barak and his wife Elika, herself a recently-retired labor court judge, met with students and taught classes at the Law School, and engaged with lawyers, judges, and many other members of the community. They graciously took time to conduct this interview with Liam Skilling, a 3L at the Law School.
Q: What is the source of justice in a Democracy? What is the role of the courts and judicial interpretation in supporting justice?
A: Different societies have different ideas about justice. Justice is a very complicated concept. For many, justice means equality, equal treatment, but it seems to me that justice is much richer than just equal treatment. It is one of those things that is difficult to express, but you know it when you see it. And judges are expressing this deep feeling.
When judges are dealing with justice, it is not their personal sense of justice, it is not even the community's sense of justice, it is the sense of justice that is embodied and expressed in the law itself. But in many cases the law is vague, in many cases the law is not specific, and when you have a situation in which the law can be construed in...