the respondent’s home address. Under no circumstances should you ever initiate a summons if you do not have a complete, valid address of the respondent. We rely on this address in assuming that the respondent is aware of the complaint lodged against so that they comply with the halakhic obligation to appear before us or choose an authorized alternative. A siruv and niduy will be issued if the respondent fails to respond to the summons, based on the address you provide.
How should I prepare for the case?
The first thing we want to know is the amount you are suing for (if the suit is monetary) and why, i.e. you will open your argument by stating that “defendant owes me $500 in rent for the month of may”. You will then state your narrative version of the circumstances relating to the case, such as “defendant has signed a 1-year lease agreeing to pay $500 per month for rent and he has repeatedly neglected my pleas for last month's rent”. Accompanying your narrative of facts and events should be the documents and/or human witnesses who bear testimony to your claim, if the facts or events are in dispute.
Do I get rebut a misleading statement made by the respondent?
Sure, you do. Both parties will take turns elucidating their position and responding to the other party's statements, until the judges feel that the circumstances are clear enough for them to start deliberating amongst themselves and render a verdict.
What happens after the litigation proceedings are over?
We will deliberate the case in private session. Our verdicts are based strictly on the circumstances of the case and how the Torah, Mishnah, Talmud and Shulkhan Arukh may be applied to the case, to render a rabbinically correct and just resolution to the dispute. We will then send a copy of the verdict to both parties.
How long does it take for beth din to examine the case?
According to halakha, prolonging a dispute is unacceptable. We will issue a verdict as soon as feasible, typically within three days.
What if the respondent does not appear on the appointed litigation date?
We will at once declare the respondent to be in contempt of court and thereby allow the plaintiff to sue in secular court and/or pursue any other activity they deem suitable in order to receive compensation for a loss or correct an injustice. Moreover, the accused will be pronounced in niduy (excommunication) as per the halakhic stipulation for the case of a mesarev ledin. The excommunicated individual must then follow special behavioral rules until the matter is resolved, such as not entering within four amoth and not engaging in commerce with any other member of the community. Additionally, if there is a valid arbitration agreement between the parties, the Bais Din may render a default judgment.
What happens if I don't show up on time on the appointed litigation date?
The plaintiff must appear promptly before our court on the specified date and time. If plaintiff is more than 15 minutes late, the case will be dismissed.
Can I bring along a lawyer or personal adviser?
Sure. You may bring along a secular and/or rabbinic lawyer (toen) to advise you during the court proceedings. This, however, is solely your responsibility and a personal decision; we do not encourage litigants to hire lawyers (as is sometimes the case in secular courts).
The court verdict is in Hebrew. How can I get it translated?
There are private companies out there who specialize is such translation services. We can give you some references upon request, though we are not affiliated or vouch for any of them.
Can I send in some preliminary documents supporting my claim or explain to beth din over the phone the basis of my complaint?
No. All deliberations and examination of evidence will be conducted at the actual court hearing on the appointed litigation date. In the interest of impartiality and transparency, we do not listen to ANY accounts of the circumstances of a claim, whether it be from the plaintiff or respondent, before the hearing, where both parties are present before us.
Can I sue someone from who resides in a faraway place?
No. We cannot accept cases from aggrieved individuals if the respondent does not reside in the metropolitan New York area, since it is not reasonable to require them to travel an excessively long distance to our court.
I received a summons to appear from your beth din. However, it's all a big mistake. Can I clear things up with the court by phone or other medium and avoid coming down to court?
No. You may very well be right that the complaint is absolutely groundless. A summons from our court (unlike one from a secular court, which requires probable cause or a summary description of the complaint) does not require the plaintiff to specify any details about the actual complaint. All discussions and presentations of evidence are made during the litigation proceedings on the appointed date and time. Therefore, the summons does NOT imply that there is any merit whatsoever in the plaintiff's case. If you believe your innocent, simply state your position before us during the court proceedings, supported by evidence if applicable, and the case against you may be vacated at once.
The date and time you ordered me to appear before the court are inconvenient for me. What can I do?
Contact us by phone and request an earlier litigation date. We will not usually grant a later date, in the interest of prompt and effective dispute resolution. The earlier date will then be binding upon the plaintiff.
Who authorized your beth din? Do your dayyanim have semikha?
Nobody “authorized” us and our dayyanim do not have semikha (nor do any dayyanim on other contemporary batei dinim, since semikha has now been discontinued). According to Jewish law, three laymen (sheloshah hedyototh) are authorized to form a beth din for the purpose of resolving dinei mamonoth (monetary disputes) and the accused is required to appear before such a court and abide by its decision.
Okay, I am required halakhically to appear before beth din. But who said I have to go to your beth din? I'd like to go to a different beth din or choose my own dayyanim!
That is definitely your prerogative. However, we do not recognize the halakhic validity of any bes din who accepts compensation for judging, in flagrant violation of the mishnaic injunction “whoever takes recompnse for judging, his judgement is void”. In the interest of having the case heard promptly by the beis din of your choice, we need to receive a clear statement from the three dayyanim you have chosen, specifying the time and place where you will appear before them, so that we can notify the plaintiff where and when to appear before the beth din of your choice. If the beth din you chose receives compensation or postpones the hearing excessively we will not deem it a valid alternative to our bais din, since this does not provide a halakhically impartial, prompt and effective venue to have a disupte heard and resolved according to Torah rules.
What legal weight does your court's decision carry?
Both parties will be made to sign an arbitration agreement before proceedings begin. Our beth din is legally constituted as a binding arbitration panel. Secular courts will generally enforce our decisions.
I was sent a summons to appear before a different court and I would like to choose you instead. How do I go about?
Call us 718-930-4923 or fill out the initiate a summons form and clearly indicate in the “comments” field that you are the defendant –not the plaintiff-- in the suit. We will then notify both you and the plaintiff when and where to appear. This procedure is called ishur hazeman (confirmation of litigation time and place).
I, the defendant, have chosen you as my beth din and I subsequently appeared before you on the date and time specified. The plaintiff, however, did not show. Now what?
We will issue a tatsdeqta (exemption) declaration. This document states that you appeared before us in a bona fide attempt to resolve the matter in accordance with Torah law but the plaintiff neglected to appear. You are therefore exempt from any further harassment by the plaintiff or the issuance of a siruvdeclaration by any other court.