Suppose a din Torah is conducted according to “strict din.”

Would a photocopy of a relevant document be considered evidence? (The original document was submitted as evidence in a secular court proceeding.)

Would an official transcript of a secular court proceeding be considered evidence?

Obviously, when a person testifies under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury in a secular court proceeding, the statements that he makes are made “outside of bais din.” Often halachah considers statements made outside of bais din subject to retraction with the explanation, “ani m’shateh b-cha (I was joking with you).” Does halachah permit a baal din to disavow statements he made under oath in secular court?

There are various circumstances where a dayan who commits a serious error is obligated to pay the defendant that he harmed. Typically the circumstance is where the dayan awarded more money to the plaintiff when the plaintiff was undeserving of the award. However, suppose the error involved the dayan wrongly denying the claim of the plaintiff. Now the defendant refuses to return to bais din. If the statute of limitations has run (so access to the secular court is not helpful) must the plaintiff forfeit his claim or might the dayan be liable?

Answer:

1. A document, photocopied or otherwise, is considered ‘circumstancial evidence’ (depending on the type of document involved). Provided the evidence is clear cut, this would be acceptable in beis din for purposes of monetary proceedings (as ruled by Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, one can rely on Umdena for monetary matters).

2. A transcript would be considered evidence of what was said in court. We do not suspect that the typist taking the meetings forges the transcript, for he would face harsh penalties if he was caught.

3. Rishonim in Gittin (10b; see Ran, Ritva) write that concerning statements of admission made in secular courts we do not say that a person can exuse himself by claiming that he was only joking. It is possible that all agree to this, though Ramban writes that a “document of admission” from secular courts is not valid. See Mishpatecha Le-Yaakov Vol. 5, no. 39.

4. Under ordinary circumstances, the Dayan will not be obligated to pay, for if all he did was give the ruling, this is not considered ‘direct damage.’ There is much debate concerning the rationale behind the dayan having to pay for some mistakes, but not for others; see Ketzos Hachoshen 25:5; Biur Ha-Gra 25:27.

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