What happens if the person who is summoned to a Din Torah refuses to come?
Jewish law forbids the defendant to refuse. It is a violation of Torah Law, similar to eating non-kosher food or violating other Jewish laws. If a defendant will not appear, the Beth Din may issue a “heter arkaos,” which grants permission to the plaintiff to go to a secular court.
Do I need a Lawyer?
No. You have the right to have a lawyer present if you want one. Often times a lawyer can help you present your case. An attorney may also help you identify what is important to present to the judges. Nevertheless, unlike secular court, the judges in Beth Din have a much greater responsibility to make sure each side fully presents their case, so a lawyer is not a requirement.
If I want a Lawyer, do I need a lawyer with special expertise in Jewish law?
No. A lawyer will help ensure that your case is organized, and that you do not neglect any evidence in your favor. The judges are responsible for identifying Jewish law relevant to the case.
Do the judges follow American law?
A Beis Din follows Jewish law, which often takes the local law into account. For example, a Beis Din typically considers common business practice and interprets contracts according the the governing law in which they were drawn up. Corporate Bankruptcy laws are another good example of statutes that may be governing in Din Torah.
What are some notable distinctions from secular law?
Jews are forbidden to charge each other interest on loans so a Beth Din may strike a provision in a contract that calls for the charging of interest in the absence of what is know as a Heter Iska provision. Inheritance rules are different, particularly in the absence of a will. There are provisions that may be included in a will allowing it to be enforceable under Jewish law.
Are the judges bound by precedent?
Judges in a din torah apply their understanding of the Jewish law. The body of Jewish law is very extensive, and sometimes Batei Din in different locales such as Israel and the Diaspora may rule differently on a specific issue. By and large most questions do have clear resolution that the judges can be expected to follow.