Secular Court

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Supreme Court of the United States Building, Washington, DC, as seen from the west side of 1st St NE. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Gravity of Taking Another Jew to Secular/Civil Court

The Torah has poignantly unforgiving words for those who abandon its lofty and complete system of resolving monetary disputes judged by Divinely assisted Dayanim in favor of civil or secular courts run by non-Jewish justices. The prohibition applies even if both parties agree to bring their case to a civil court. [1] Similarly, the prohibition applies even if the non-Jewish justices reach the same conclusion as a Jewish court would.[2]

  1. Even if it's a case where one is permitted to take the law into his own hands (Avid Inash Dina LeNafsheh), one may not take another Jew to secular court.[3]
  2. Certainly, one may not hire non-Jews to force another Jew to come to court. Instead, he should follow the procedure outlined below regarding instances in which one is permitted to take another Jew to court.[4]


If one has a monetary dispute and the other party refuses to come to Beit Din after receiving the appropriate invitation, he may request permission from the Beit Din to take his opponent to civil court. If the Beit din already reached a verdict and the guilty party refuses to pay, even the Dayanim may go bear witness in an upstanding civil court that according to Torah law the man is guilty. The same is true if Beit Din would be unable to carry out the verdict due to the opponent's physical strengths. [5]

Agreements, Stipulations, and Penalties


See Also

External Links


  1. Shemot 21:1, Rashi and Ramban ibid, Gittin 88b, Rambam Hilchot Sanhedrin 26:7, Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 26:1.
  2. Shulchan Aruch ibid. SMA Choshen Mishpat 26:2.
  3. Darkei Moshe Choshen Mishpat 26:1, SMA 26:1
  4. Rama Choshen Mishpat 26:1
  5. Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 26:2. Regarding the upstanding nature of the secular court at hand, the language used by Rav Shererah Gaon (quoted in Beit Yosef ibid) requires the court to boast a reputation that shuns bribery; however, the Rama for some reason omits this parameter. The SMA 26:9 is left in a state of confusion, while the Shach 26:4 reasons that if the Dayanim's efforts will be fruitless, as their testimony will not be accepted in light of a bribe, then they may not testify,. On the other hand, if they will be heard out in earnest, and there's just a chance that there will be deceitful actions that follow on part of the civil court, then they may testify. Therefore the Rama omitted the point about bribes. See Gittin 11a.