Beth Din Givas Hamorah
a free halakhic adjudication service to the haredi Jewish community in the metropolitan New York area

Respond to a Summons

If you received a summons to appear before our court, please be advised of the following:

If you are named a defendant in a complaint, you are according to Jewish halakhah required to appear before a competent, impartial beth din, who will listen to both parties and rule on the matter from a halakhic perspective. Halakhah also specifies that a beth din may not charge any fees for its service; if it does charge a fee, then its rulings are null and void.

Alternative Beth Din

If you choose to exercise your halakhic right to choose a different beth din, the following must be done:

  1. Choose three dayyanim on your own (our beth din will not provide any panelists if you claim zabla).
  2. The chosen dayyanim must sign a document stating that the respondent will appear before them on a specified date and time (no later than the litigation date appointed by our beth din) and a specified place.
  3. The chosen dayyanim must affirm that they do not accept any compensation for adjudicating the case. If the chosen dayyanim have a reputation of accepting compensation for judgements we will go by hazakah (assumption) and reject their validity as halakhically sanctioned, impartial justices.
  4. The signed document must be faxed or mailed to us before the litigation date, so that we may notify the plaintiff in a timely manner where and when to appear for litigation.

How to prepare for the case

We do not inquire as to the nature of a claim made by a plaintiff before we issue a summons. We are therefore unable to give you details on the claim. In the vast majority of cases the respondent aready knows or should already know what the issue is and is thus able to prepare a defense and any relevant documents ahead of time.

If you feel that there is additional testimony or evidence you wish to submit, that you do not have in your posession at the time of litigation, upon the discretion of beth din you will be allowed to submit it within a reasonable period by fax or mail.

We advise you to take notes while the plaintiff makes his opening claim against you. This way you will later be able to logically and methodically respond to every issue raised by your opponent. Interruptions, however, are not welcome. Even if you believe your opponent is fabricating things on the go, resist the urge to interrupt. This way we can keep the process civil and have a better understanding of both parties' positions and render the best possible judgement for the benefit of both parties.

What if I cannot make it to court?

Jewish law takes interpersonal monetary disputes very seriously. You are halakhically required to appear before beth din to have the matter examined by three impartial, competent judges; it is not an option. It is just as imperative as putting on tefillin and reciting the shema every day. Moreover, since failure to appear exhibits a disregard for Torah law and social order within the community, beth din is empowered to put you in herem if you fail to appear. If you absolutely cannot make it due to a last-minute emergency, contact us at once to explain why and re-schedule, and avoid the consequences of a siruv and herem.

It is also in your own best interest to respond promptly to our summons. If you are right, the matter will hopefully be resolved in your favor quickly and efficiently without exorbitant defense costs and procrastination as is common among other bate dinim and the secular juduicial system. If you are wrong, you are better off being found wrong in our court and thus hope for a lighter judgement on the account of goodwill on the part of the plaintiff, than forcing the plaintiff to go to secular court in which case the plaintiff may not be as amenable and willing to compromise.

Beth din will allow a grace period of 30 minutes for the respondent to show up at the appointed place and time on the litigation date. Failure to appear within this time frame will result in beth din declaring you to be a mesarev ledin (refusing to submit to judgement). This siruv declaration also gives your opponent the halakhic right to sue in secular court and to pursue any other method in an attempt to redress his grievance.

Note about Three Summonses

We do NOT send out three summonses before issuing a siruv. Our beth din has found that the three-summons practice is a late custom based on an agrarian setting where there was a high chance that the shaliah beth din (court courier/messenger) appointed to deliver the summons has not successfully done so. Our modern postal system, coupled with the sedentary lifestyle that we lead, allows for a hazakah that the summons will have been successfuly received and read by the respondent after one attempt.

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