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Colonial Cases

Re Ginsberg, 1929-1930

[admission of legal practitioners, women]

Re Ginsberg

Supreme Court of Palestine
Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 16 August 1925



A reply has been received by the Jewish Women's Union for Equal Rights from the Colonial Office to their question regarding the right for women to appear as advocates in the Palestine Courts.  The reply states that the Colonial Office will decide upon this question upon learning the opinion of the new High Commissioner, Lord Plomer.


The Palestine Bulletin, 24 January 1929


   A novel case is coming up before the High Court of Palestine very shortly, when Mrs. Ginsberg, daughter-in-law of the late Achad Ha'am - Asher Ginsberg - will lodge a complaint against the Chief Justice for an alleged misinterpretation of the Palestine Law.

   Mrs. Ginsberg, who is the wife of the Registrar at the Hebrew University, has completed her law course but is unable to practise in the local Courts although the Ottoman Code of Procedure and the Palestine Ordinances do not specifically convey an embargo against women law practitioners appearing before the local Bench.  The interpretation of the Chief Justice is based upon the word "person."  The law states that "persons" who are advocates or barristers may appear in the Courts, and the local authorities have chosen to take this ambiguous piece of legislation as referring only to males.  On the other hand, it should be remembered that women doctors are allowed to practise here, although a similar provision as to "persons" appears in the relative ordinance.

   This test case is significant because if Mrs. Ginsberg is successful, she will be the first "Portia" to be admitted to the Palestine Bar as a practising member.  The date of the hearing in the High Court is set down for early next month.  Mrs. Ginsberg is associated with Mr. H. Sachers's law office and will be represented before the High Court by Mr. S. Horowitz/


The Palestine Bulletin, 6 February 1929


   The Supreme Court last Monday heard the complaint brought by Mrs. Rosa Ginsberg against the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council for refusing to permit her to take the bar examinations and to practise law.  After very brief proceedings the session was adjourned as the Court found it necessary to enquire first into the formal side of the case, namely, into the question as to whether a complaint against the Chief Justice is admissible, or whether he should be regarded as the decisive authority in the interpretation of the law.


The Palestine Bulletin, 20 June 1929


Question Raised Again Before High Court.

   In accordance with the judgment recently given by the High Court, Mrs.  Rosa Ginsberg has again applied to the Board of Legal Studies for permission to take the lawyers' examinations.  The Board dismissed the application, maintaining that under the Advocates' Ordinance women are not entitled to practise law in Palestine.  Mrs. Ginsberg will now resume her case against the Chief Justice before the High Court.


The Palestine Bulletin, 19 July 1929


A Nice point for the Privy Council.

LONDON. - Mr. J. F. Lymburn, the Attorney-General of Alberta, Canada, Mr. Lucien Cannon, K.C., the solicitor-general of Canada, and two other K.C.s have crossed the Atlantic to argue whether the word "persons" in the British North America Act includes women.

   The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that it did not and therefore that women may not sit in the Senate.  The feminists of Canada have taken up the challenge, and the result is the appearance of the action "Edwards and others v. The Attorney-General of Canada and others," in the list of appeals to the Privy Council in London.


The Palestine Bulletin, 28 October 1929


   There has been for a long time a question as to whether women were eligible for membership to the senate of Canada.  The word used in connection with the election of senator is "person."  It has always been considered in Canada that only men were eligible.  When, however, the question was tested, there appeared to be no reason why the word "person" in the British North America Act should not include woman.  The matter was brought before the Privy Council.  The decision of the Privy Council has now been published.  According to this decision, women will now be allowed to take their seats in the Senate.  In delivering the judgment of the Court, Lord Sankey said, "The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours."

   This decision may throw some light on a similar question which is being raised in Palestine.  The question here is whether a woman may practise in the Courts of Palestine.  In the ordinance dealing with the practise of advocacy in the country, the word "person" is also used, and the interpretation of the word "person" given here was rather against women being included.


The Palestine Bulletin, 22 December 1929


   Before the Court of Appeal, the appeal of Mrs. Ginsberg, who claims the right of appearing in court as an advocate, was heard on Thursday.  The main point hinges on the word person, whether a "person" includes a woman in the Advocates Ordinance 1920.  Judgment was reserved.


The Palestine Bulletin, 10 January 1930


   Further argument was heard yesterday on the claim by Mrs. Ginsberg to be allowed to become a member of the Palestinian Bar and to practise in the Courts of Palestine.  Judgment was reserved.


The Palestine Bulletin, 16 February 1930


   Yesterday the long fight of a woman for the right to appear and plead in the Courts of Palestine was won.  The Supreme Court gave its judgment in favour of Mrs. Ginsberg, who pleaded her own case before it demanding the bright of becoming a full member of the Palestine Bar.  For years the fight has been going bon.  The battle was waged in Palestine and in London as well.  Here, when the Palestine Jewish Women Equal Rights Association raised the question, the Sheikh of Beersheba said it was not becoming for women to appear in Courts.  Other Moslems objected ion similar grounds.

   In July, 1925, the International Woman Suffrage Alliance received a letter from the Colonial Office saying, "regarding the admission of women to the practice of the law in Palestine, I am to inform you that Mr. Secretary Amery has decided to defer his decision in this matter until Lord Plomer has taken up the appointment of High Commissioner for Palestine and has submitted his recommendations on the subject."

   Questions were raised in Parliament, in London, and the matter was fought out in the Courts here.

   Mrs. Ginsberg is a daughter of the Hebrew writer, Mordecai ben Hillel Hacohen and a daughter-in-law of the famous philosopher, Achad-Haam.  She has been reading in the Chambers of Mr. Horowitz.

   The judgment was given by Mr. Justice Corrie and Mr. Justice Khayat.  Mr. Justice Corrie, who pronounced the decision, stated that Mrs. Ginsberg had applied for the permission to practice and to take the Foreign Advocates Examination.  He cited the relevant laws and ordinances, English and Palestinian, in this connection, and said that it was for consideration whether or not the Ottoman law restricted the profession of advocacy to males.

   The Court had to consider whether there was any provision in the Ottoman Law applicable to Palestine to-day or to the earlier occupying power, which restricted the profession of advocacy to males, continued Mr. Justice Corrie.  It did not appear that there was anything in the terms of the Ottoman Law which excluded woman from permission to practice as advocates.

   "It is not suggested by the petitioner," said Mr. Justice Corrie, "that before the British Occupation any woman had in fact practised the profession of advocate, either in Palestine or in any other part of the Ottoman Empire."  It has been argued that Section 5 of the Advocates Ordinance of 1922 applied equally to Civil and Moslem Religious Courts and that it cannot have been the intention of the Legislature to permit women to qualify to practice before religious Moslem Courts.  However, no provision in the Ottoman Law, excluding women from practice in the Sharia Court has been cited.  It isn't, therefore, vital to the interpretation which the petitioner asks the Court to put upon Section 5 of the Advocates Ordinance of 1922.  I hold, therefore, that the petitioner is entitled to the order.  His Honour, Judge Khayat, has further given judgment to the same effect.


The Palestine Bulletin, 17 February 1930


   When Deborah donned a military uniform and advanced against the Canaanites, there can be little doubt that many of the Sheikhs were notified at her audacity.  It is not difficult to imagine the head-shaking that went on in the camps of Israel when it was a woman who had the impertinence to do a job that usually only men would do.  But, when as a result of her leadership, the country had peace for forty years, even the most bigoted Palestinian of the day must have admitted that a woman could be a person and a person of importance.

   For some time the courts of Palestine have been busy arguing the question whether the word person included a woman.  In ordinary speech, we do not speak of persons as women.  When we say person we mean men and woman.  But as was pointed out, not so long ago, the lawn is an ass and those of us who are now lawyers have to suffer from its braying.

   Mrs. Ginsberg claimed the right to appear in the courts of Palestine and to plead there as an advocate.  Those who heard her conduct her own case could scarcely doubt that she was very capable of pleading and must have concluded that she would be an ornament to any bar in the world.  But the fact remained that she was a woman.  When questions were asked in Parliament about the rights of women to appear in the courts here, the Minister said that local opinion in Palestine was against any extension of rights to women and that therefore the Colonial Office would do nothing to make possible their entry into the legal profession.

   Palestine is not alone in objecting to the enfranchisement of women.  Most of us remember when women were smashing windows and making themselves a nuisance throughout England because they were not given the vote.  Nor is it many years since Miss Normanton was called to the Bar of England, the first woman to be so honoured.

   The number of women interested in becoming advocate will always remain very small.  The decision of the court given on Saturday will not of itself affect many people.  But the principle gained is one of enormous value to the progress of this country. In many spheres, the position of women is shocking.

   It is still possible for a man of sixty to marry a girl of twelve and the law of the country is powerless against it.  Any attempt to improve the position of woman is handicapped by just such a stick-in-the-mud attitude which has mad the right of a woman to appear in courts take years before it was admitted.  The primitive psychology of the native population of Palestine which makes the fear of the unknown paralyze any action to alleviate human suffering, makes progress a slow and uncertain thing.  It is for this reason that every door should be opened which stands for obscurantism and medievalism.  It is for this reason, too, that we welcome the decision in Mrs. Ginsberg's case.  It is a triumph of light against darkness, of sense against stupidity.  If Mrs. Ginsberg never conducts a case in Court, if no Palestinian woman is ever heard pleading, the case will not have been fought bin vain.  Once let light into a room, you will not confine it in a corner.  This will be but one step in the emancipation of the Palestine woman from the darkness of her present position.


The Palestine Bulletin, 19 February 1930.


   Mrs. Rosa Ginsberg is in receipt of a message of congratulation from the Jewish Women Equal Rights Association which reads: "The admission of women to practise law will raise the standard of women in Palestine."  It will be remembered that the Supreme Court gave a decision on Saturday which ended a five year fight in which Mrs. Ginsberg was the leading figure, for the right of women to practise in Palestine.


The Palestine Bulletin, 25 April 1930


   Mrs. Rosa Ginsberg who has been fighting the battle of women to practise at the Bar and who recently persuaded the judges that the word person included a woman, has now the right herself to practise in the Courts of Palestine.  Yesterday the result of the examination for Foreign Advocates was made known and in this the name of Mrs. Ginsberg appears.  ... It will be remembered that Miss Shutzkin was successful in her examination and when she has been screened will also be entitled to practise.


The Palestine Bulletin, 13 May 1930

What We Have To Say.


   We publish in another column a protest made by a well-known woman's organisation in Palestine against the Draft Ordinance which was issued some weeks ago which excludes woman from practising in religious courts and in certain underlined cases.  This, it is claimed, is a step backwards and seems to make the victory which was won by Mrs. Ginsberg something of as Pyrrhic victory. ...  [See Palestine Bulletin, 2 May 1930 for Draft.]


The Palestine Bulletin, 6 June 1920

To Palestine Bar.


The following persons were called to the Palestine Bar yesterday: ... 5 Miss Freda Shutzkin.


The Palestine Bulletin, 17 July 1930


   Hidden away under the verbiage of the law published in yesterday's Official Gazette is a great victory for Palestinian woman.  The uphill fight of Mrs. Ginsberg to secure the right of women to appear in the Courts of this country resulted in a victory.  But it seemed that this was but Pyrrhic and as if the fruits of victory would be snatched from the hands of the victor.

   Last April there was published, as an Extraordinary Gazette, the Bill announcing that women might not practise in religious courts or tribal courts and - here was the sting - the Chief Justice, with the approval of the high Commissioner might, by regulation, forbid licensed advocates who are women "to appear in any specified class ort judicial proceedings or otherwise restrict their exercise of the profession of advocate."

   This was as good as saying that any woman might be prevented from appearing in any number of unspecified cases.  This was pointed out as a blot on Palestinian legislation in the Palestine Bulletin at the time.  The Official Gazette published yesterday now gives the terms of the Ordinance as amended.  Under the new ordinance women are only prevented from practising in Moslem religious and tribal Courts.

   This is not the only important change.  In a petition sent at the time to the High Commissioner it was pointed out that a woman who was not an advocate might appear in the Rabbinical Court while any lay woman might represent any person in a Rabbinical Court.  This absurdity has led to the deletion of the words "in any religious Court" and the substitution of "in a Moslem Religious Court."


Mrs. Ginsberg will be called to the bar next week.


The Palestine Bulletin, 25 July 1930.

Call Day.


   Five persons were called to the Palestine Bar yesterday morning in the High Court, in Jerusalem.  The successful candidates were presented by the Attorney General, and the Licenses were presented by the Chief Justice.  Before calling the names, the Attorney General spoke of the work of Mrs. Ginsberg and her success in opening the gate of the Palestine Bat to the women of Palestine.  Though she is not the first woman to receive the License she is the first to open the door.

   The following persons were then called to the Bar. 1. Mrs. Ginsberg. ....

   The Chief Justice delivered to each the Licence after the oath had been administered.  The Chief Justice also referred to the success of Mrs. Ginsberg.  "To you is due the credit for having fought this fight." 

   The Chief Justice concluded "I wish you, Mrs. Ginsberg, and you gentlemen, every success and I wish you always to remember that you owe a duty not only to your client, but to your selves and to the public.  You are representatives of an honourable profession."

The Palestine Bulletin, 10 August 1930


   Mr. S. Ginsberg, Registrar of Hebrew University, has gone to Europe for research work in philosophy for two years. ... Mrs. Ginsberg, recently admitted to the Palestine Bar, expects to join a law firm in London.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School