Could you tell me where I can find the rules relating to how the Bet Din must conduct itself?
Does a Bet Din have to respond to an individual if they are asking a question in good faith about religious practice?
Does the Bet Din have to provide reasons for their response and cite appropriate sources.
What sort of quality must the response display, do they have to deal with each issue raised point by point?
Is there an appeal mechanism against a Bet Din that make a ruling on an issue that appears to be in clear contravention of Torah or Talmud?
Please could you cite appropriate authorities for each of your responses.
1) A beit din is not involved, in an official capacity, with questions of religious practice, but rather with matters of adjudication between parties (conflict resolution). The job of consultation for religious matters is that of the rabbi, and not the beit din.
However, many batei din also run batei hora’ah, which provide answers to halachic questions of all types. If a question is asked in good faith, it is the job of a rabbi or other relevant body to provide the answers.
2) According to Talmudic law, which is ruled by the Shulchan Aruch and later authorities, there is no automatic obligation for beit din to provide the rationales behind their ruling. However, if one or both parties have grounds to believe that beit din is not acting in good faith, there is a full obligation the reasoning behind the ruling. Today, most batei din always provide the reasoning behind the ruling, though this is not a hard and fast rule.
Where the litigants have a legitimate demand for it, there will be an obligation to address the specific points relevant to the case. This changes according to specific circumstances.
3) There is no official appeal mechanism in beit din. However, if a person feels that beit din has made a mistake, he can certainly appeal, and if the dayanim refuse to hear or address his claims, he can file a claim against them at a different beit din.
An appeal against a ruling will only be accepted where the ruling is in clear contravention of halachah, or where there is a severe error of judgment and discretion. The specific laws pertaining to overturning a ruling are quite complex, and are ruled in the Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 25 (based on Sanhedrin 33).