Ethical Guidelines for the Dayanim of the
Mishpat VeHalacha BeYisrael Beit Din
1. A court of three judges…it is necessary that each of them partake of the following seven things:
Wisdom and humility, fear of G-d, hatred of money and love of truth, and they must be loved by all creatures and possess a good name.
And all of these things are explicated in the Torah.
It is said: “wise and thoughtful men”- from this we learn that he must be wise.
“And known to their tribes”- those that the spirit of all creatures is comfortable with.And in what shall they be loved by all creatures? When they will have a good eye and a humble soul, and their company will be good and their speech and negotiations pleasant. Thereinafter it is said: “People of might” – these are those that are courageous in mitzvoth and stringent upon themselves, and conquer their evil inclination to the point that they have no ignominy or disrepute, and they should have an unblemished reputation. And within the definition of “people of might” – that he should have a brave heart to deliver the oppressed from his oppressor, as it is written: “And Moses rose up and rescued them”.
And just as Moshe Rabeinu was humble so every judge must be humble.
“God fearers”- literally.
“Lucre haters”- even their own possessions do not agitate them and they do not pursue the amassment of wealth
For anyone concerned with fortune will come to lack.
“Men of truth”- that they will pursue justice of their own volition.
Lovers of truth and haters of oppression who shun all forms of injustice (Rambam, Laws of Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, paragraph 7)
2. The rabbinical court judge is required to adjudicate justly and to carry out the act of judgment in accordance with the Torah’s commandments, as they are elucidated in the Shulhan Aruch and the poskim, and as they have been set down in the deliberation ordinances.
3. In fulfilling his duty the judge will not be dependant upon anyone.
B. Refraining from taking advantage of judicial status for extraneous purposes
4. In all of his undertakings, a rabbinical court judge will conduct himself in a manner that precludes the possibility of any conflict of interests between his judicial duty and all other activities.
5. A judge will not take advantage of his position in order to unlawfully promote his personal interests or the personal interests of others.
6. A. The Beit Din’s official stationery will serve the judge only for correspondences
relating to his duty.
B. A judge may reference his position as judge in the “Mishpat VeHalacha
BeYisrael” Beit Din that is adjacent to “Eretz Hemdah” on his personal stationery,
business card, checks or other documents that serve to identify him. He will not,
however, use a document bearing his title of judge in any application which
includes a request for permits or licenses, or in raising oppositions or requests in
the context of which the utilization of his title may appear to be an unlawful
attempt to gain additional status.
C. A judge may use his title in any book or article he writes.
7. A judge may offer his opinion on the competence or professional qualifications of a candidate for judgeship or of anyone who once worked with him, whether as an intern or in another capacity, either during the judge’s tenure or prior to it.
8. A judge will not apply to public authorities or to individuals with requests from a public organization he is associated with in circumstances under which his status as judge may influence the decision of the agency applied to.
C. The Hearing
9. A judge will attend to and try any case entrusted to his treatment unless there are legal grounds that require him to disqualify himself from judging the matter, depending on the decision of the president or one of the court’s presiding judges.
10. A judge will be strict in maintaining the order and dignity of the proceedings.
11. While sitting on the judge’s bench the judge will conduct himself with patience, moderation, and courteousness, while lawfully maintaining the appearance of justice. He will also require similar conduct of the other participants in the deliberations.
12. In order to set forth a just ruling a judge may consult the matter at hand with his colleagues or with anyone he sees fit.
13. A judge will maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings and will be strict with the assistant staff to keep them from gossiping and divulging confidential information.
14. Once a time is appointed for a deliberation the judge must strictly adhere to the opening hour unless the deliberation is being delayed due to a previous proceeding that has not yet reached its conclusion.
15. A judge may not delay the proceedingsand will conclude any matter he is adjudicating as quickly as possible and in an efficient manner.
16. A judge who is responsible for overseeing and steering the proceedings will be diligent in conducting the deliberations according to the appropriate courses of deliberation, in keeping with the guidelines of the Beit Din’s judicial process.
17. A judge who offers a proposition to the litigants will be stringent in ensuring that his proposal is presented in a manner befitting the Beit Din’s dignity and the circumstances of the matter at hand.
18. A judge will refrain from making comments, either oral or written, whose style or manner of presentation may detract from the dignity of a judge, another Beit Din or a litigant.
D. Additional Activities
19. A. A judge may take up an appropriate activity outside the Beit Din’s walls, if it does
not violate the principles set down by these guidelines.
B. Any activity or position filled outside of the Beit Din must befit the Judge’s
20. A judge will not take additional activities upon himself, even if they are permissible re their character or the permit given him, if these activities may impede upon his ability to properly fulfill his duties as judge.
21. A judge will not attend party meetings and will refrain from making public political statements either orally or in writing. A judge will not serve as a consultant to political parties or other public authorities, except for providing consultation on matters of religion, law and halacha. He will not convene a meeting or gathering in his home for the sake of promoting a partisan cause, not will he allow others to convene such a meeting in his home.
22. A. A judge will not appear as a speaker, or as a member of a panel, on partisan issues.
B. A judge may speak publicly on non-judicial matters, however in doing so he must conduct himself with the proper precaution stemming from his station, while maintaining an objective approach and refraining from a polemical tone.
C. A judge will not address authorities with partisan affiliation, unless it is on religious and halachic issues.
23. A. A judge may not raise funds for people who come in contact with him in court.
B. A judge’s name may appear on an institution’s stationery as a member of the institution’s board of directors.
C. A judge may serve in a committee distributing prizes or scholarships to commemorate a deceased person.
24. A judge will not derive material benefit from his status as judge, either directly or indirectly.
E. Preventing Conflicting Interests
25. A judge’s tenure does not require him to sever social ties, including those with rabbinical pleaders and lawyers. However, a judge must exercise proper halachic judgment as to whose company he will share, as well as to how, under the circumstances, people will construe his presence in a particular social circle.
26. A judge will not respond publicly, or in the media, to things publicized in the media regarding his personal work in the Beit Din. The judge will turn to the president of the court, and, if necessary, the response will be made by one of the heads of the court in consultation with the administration, or by the judge himself if the administration’s consent is given.
27. A judge will refrain from any action that constitutes self-promoting his work as a rabbinical court judge.
28. A judge will maintain neither direct nor indirect ties with media reporters with the intention of calling their attention to what is being done in court, or in order to explain his ruling, or to bring a ruling he has made to their attention, unless this is done with the permission of the Beit Din’s president.
G. Guidelines of Conduct for Judges
29. Judges will arrive at court hearings fifteen minutes before the hour scheduled for the deliberation so as to be prepared for the deliberation and well versed in the material of the case being deliberated, and in order to ensure that the deliberation begins at the scheduled time.
30. The judges must ensure that no cellular phones are brought into the courtroom.
31. The judges will not engage in any other activities, including study, perusal, inspection, proofreading etc during deliberations.
32. The judges will wear suits and ties in the courtroom.
33. The judge will not discuss the adjudicated case with anyone. This does not contradict article C 12 above.
34. With both sides’ prior consent, in writing as well -including a record entry- the judge may confer with one side without the other side’s presence, provided that the conversation is held in court with the intention of bringing both sides to agreement.
35. In any case where doubt arises, interpretation of the ethical guidelines is in the hands of the Beit Din’s presidency.
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