I am a lawyer and a Jewish client just asked me to enforce a contract – charging interest – against another Jew. Can I take on the case?
Thanks in advance!
If the contract is a personal contract (between two individuals), so that there is a clear prohibition in collecting the money, you should not take on the case.
However, if the borrower is a company/corporation, and the debt is clear-cut, you can take on the case.
Yet, you should (if possible) try to convince the client to have the case heard in Beis Din.
The answer to the question must address two possible prohibitions: One the prohibition of charging interest, and the other the prohibition of going to court rather than to Beis Din.
For both prohibitions, a lawyer will not be transgressing the prohibition of lifnei iver – there are plenty of other lawyers who can do the job – and the question is rather the matter of mesaye’a lidvar aveirah (assisting in performing a prohibited act).
If the prohibition is definite (the loan is individual), the case should therefore not be taken on: In Beis Din the money (the interest) will not be awarded, and therefore going to court will involve both the prohibition of ribis, and of going to a court rather than to Beis Din.
However, if the loan is between (limited) companies, for which the prohibition of ribis is not clear cut (see our article on “Kosher Shareholding”), the case can be taken on.
The prohibition of mesaye’a does not apply to cases of doubt, and for a clear cut case (which principally involves collection) this will apply even to the matter of going to court (see here for details on the issue of mesaye’a).
At the same time, if the defendant is prepared to go there the right place for the case remains in Beis Din, so that you should try if at all possible to convince your client that he should take up the case in a Beis Din.