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Beit Midrash Series P'ninat Mishpat

Chapter 52

A Beit Din’s Withdrawal Relations with Legal ounsel

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P'ninat Mishpat (591)
Various Rabbis
51 - Incompatibility Between a Lawyer and a Dayan
52 - A Beit Din’s Withdrawal Relations with Legal ounsel
53 - Replacing a Dayan When the Matter Will Cause a Delay
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A couple was involved in adjudication regarding questions of divorce and related monetary matters. One litigant hired a to’en rabbani (the equivalent of a lawyer for the rabbinical court system) to represent him. Within the framework of trying to promote his client’s legal prospects, the to’en rabbani was interviewed by a newspaper. The resulting article contained false information about the case and harsh criticism of the beit din. The to’en rabbani claimed in his interview that he had conformed to all of the requests with which beit din had presented him and that beit din was delaying the arrangement of the get in order to ruin his reputation. Beit din considered a few options. One was to disqualify the to’en rabbani from serving as legal counsel in this case. Another possibility was to recluse themselves from hearing the case and set a panel comprised of different dayanim who had a more positive relationship with this to’en rabbani.

Ruling: The by-laws of the Rabbinical Courts system (#51) determine that a beit din may disqualify legal counsel from representing a litigant before their court if his continued participation hinders the possibility of coming to a just ruling or if the counsel treats the court disrespectfully. Both of these conditions are met in this case, and therefore, beit din is capable of removing the to’en rabbani from the case.
Beit din pointed out that even though the dayanim already wrote down their decisions regarding the case, the ruling is not finalized until at least a majority of the dayanim sign on the ruling. Even at this relatively late time in the process, the matter of the damaging newspaper interview could affect the objectivity of the dayanim and their ability to finalize a truthful decision.
In this case, the matter of whether to continue their participation in the case is of major significance because changing the panel of dayanim would delay the rendering of the ruling further. This is particularly damaging in a case like the one at hand where timely intervention is needed. Nevertheless, beit din decided to withdraw from the case and not disqualify the to’en rabbani. This is because the litigant and the to’en rabbani are closely connected for a long time. Thus, the litigant would view the removal of the to’en rabbani as a step taken against him personally. Additionally, such a decision would be liable to serve as "ammunition" for organizations with an interest to compromise the standing of the beit din.
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