Translation:Shulchan Aruch/Choshen Mishpat/8

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Paragraph 1- Anyone who appoints an unfit judge who is not a scholar in the wisdom of Torah and is not fit to be a judge violates a negative commandment, even if the judge is wonderful and has other positive qualities. One is prohibited from appointing an ignoramus with the understanding that he will confer with a scholar each time. Cities that do not have scholars who are fit to judge or cities that consist of ignoramuses exclusively, but have a need for judges so that people do not go to secular courts, should appoint the best and wisest of them (with the knowledge of the city) even though they are unfit to judge. Once the people of the city have accepted them, no one has the ability to disqualify them. Similarly, any congregation may appoint a court that is unfit according to Torah law. One is prohibited from standing up for a judge who is appointed due to the influence of gold and silver. Moreover, there is a mitzvah to degrade him and treat him as inferior. See above at the end of Siman 3.

Paragraph 2. The judges must sit in a serious manner with fear and trepidation while wrapped up. A judge is prohibited from treating a case lightly or talking about useless matters in court. A judge should view it as if a sword has been placed on his shoulder and as if hell is open underneath him. He should be aware as to who is he judging, who he is judging in front of and who will ultimately collect from him if he strays from the rule of law. Any judge who does not judge honestly causes the shechina to be removed from the Jewish people. Any judge who takes money from one and gives it to another against the law will have God collect the souls from him. Any judge that judges truthfully, even for a mere moment, causes the shechina to rest on the Jewish people. In case a judge says “what do I need this trouble for?” the Torah says “veimchem dvar hamishpat”- a judge only needs to concern himself with that which he sees.

Paragraph 3. The practice of the early scholars was to flee from a judgeship appointment. They would go to great measures in order to avoid sitting on a case until they were aware that there was no one as fit as them and that if they were to refrain from judging the straight path would become distorted. Nonetheless, they would still not sit until the people honored them and the elders pressured them.

Paragraph 4. A judge is prohibited from acting with haughtiness and as a superior on the public. Rather, he should act with humility and fear. Any activist who places extra fear on the public not for the sake of heaven will never see his child become a scholar. He is similarly prohibited from treating them with frivolity even if they are ignoramuses. He may not step on the heads of a holy nation. He must assume the pressures and burden of the public. It is incumbent on the public to treat the judge with respect and to have his fear on them. The judge should also not degrade himself or act frivolously in front of the public because once a person has been appointed as an activist on the public, he may not perform work in front of three of them so that he does not become degraded in front of them. All the more so is he prohibited from eating, drinking or getting inebriated in front of the public. Any judge who does not have someone to serve him is prohibited from accepting a judgeship.

Paragraph 5- One may not even treat the court messenger lightly. If one causes him pain, the court has permission to strike him with mardus lashes. The messenger has the status of two witnesses with respect to believing him that he was degraded and we would put a nidui on the individual who degraed him. The messenger may relate the incident to the court without any concern of lashon hara. Similarly, the messenger may strike the individual personally in a case of a refusal. He would not be responsible for any damage.