Do I need a Lawyer in a Beis Din hearing?
No. You have the right to have a attorney present if you wish but there is no requirement for you to have one present. Often a lawyer can assist you in presenting your case or may help you identify what is important to present to the judges. Still, it is your decision whether to hire representation. Unlike a secular court, the judges in a Beth Din have a much greater freedom to question the parties and make sure each side fully presents their case.
If I do bring a Lawyer, do I need an attorney 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 gives great weight to common business practice and interprets contracts according the governing law where they were drawn up. Corporate Bankruptcy laws are another example of statutes that may be overriding in a 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 interest payments unless there is a a Heter Iska provision. Inheritance rules are sometimes different, particularly in the absence of a will. Punitive damages that are awarded in tort claims and labor disputes in a secular court may not be enforceable in a Din Torah.
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 Batei Din in different locales such as Israel and the Diaspora may sometimes rule differently on a specific issue. Most questions do have a clear resolution that the judges can be expected to follow.
What happens if the person who is summoned to a Din Torah refuses to come?
Under most circumstances Jewish law forbids the defendant to refuse to appear . Refusal to engage in a Din Torah is a violation of Torah Law, like 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.