Shabbat Parashat Beshalah | 5765
Suing in Rabbinical Court after Losing in Secular Court - From Piskei Din of the Rabbinical Courts of Yerushalayim I, pg. 27
Case: The plaintiff sued the defendant in beit din to overturn a ruling of the secular court forbidding the plaintiff to use the hallway in front of the defendant’s apartment, which, the defendant claimed, belongs to him. The defendant responded that since the plaintiff already took part in the hearings in the secular court, he waived his right to have the case heard in beit din. The defendant claimed that he should not have to trouble himself to go through the legal process an additional time.
Ruling: K’nesset Yechezkel (siman 97) discusses a man who expelled his son-in-law from his daughter’s house after her death, in contradiction to the halacha that a husband inherits his wife upon her death. The father-in-law bribed officials to allow him to prevail and keep the son-in-law out, which induced the son-in-law to bribe in order to restore his rights. The K’nesset Yechezkel upheld the demands of the son-in-law for compensation and, in the process, developed the following point, which is pertinent to our case. One is permitted to protect the rights that have been or are in threat of being taken away from him in the secular courts. He does not need permission from beit din to go to the secular court to protect himself, but only needs permission if he wants to initiate a legal process which he is unable to do in beit din (usually because the other side refuses to accept beit din’s jurisdiction).
In our case, therefore, the plaintiff (who was previously the defendant in the secular court) was permitted to defend himself in secular court and try to deflect the process initiated by the defendant. It was the defendant who should not have initiated the first court case in the secular court without permission from beit din. We do not have complaints against the plaintiff’s defense there nor do we deem his appearance there as an acceptance of the secular court’s jurisdiction in this case Therefore, the plaintiff has every right to decide to sue the defendant in beit din, even after losing in secular court, and the defendant has a halachic obligation to respond to the summons to adjudicate before beit din.
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