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Jury Service in Halachah

Can a Jew serve on a jury case in the USA?


According to some authorities, it is permitted to serve on a jury case in theUSA, and this appears to be the principle halachah. Others, however, are stringent.

In cases of litigation between two Jews, one should avoid serving on a jury.


The Mishnah Halachos (4:213) writes that it is prohibited to serve as jury in aUScourt, explaining that this applies not only concerning Jewish litigants, but even concerning non-Jews. He adds that if the case is a capital punishment case, it is all the more stringent to serve as jury.

However, other authorities are lenient, because serving on the jury does not involve turning to the courts, but being part of a legal system that is not only necessary but also fulfills of the seven Noahide mitzvos.

As for the problem of Jewish litigants, who should be judged according to Jewish law, there is room to compare the case to a teshuvah of the Iggros Moshe (Choshen Mishpat 1:92), who considers a case where a person wishes to work as an accountant for theUSgovernment. As part of his duties, it was clear that he might have to turn in Jews to the government to be punished “more than they would be according to the rules of Torah.”

Rav Moshe rules that he can take the job, explaining that if he won’t do it somebody else will do it in his place. This is apparently similar to the case of jury service. However, Rav Moshe also reasons that in the case of the accountant his main task is not to catch tax-evaders, and therefore he is not entering a job of catching people. It is possible that this rationale will not apply to jury service, where the job is to give rulings.

Rav Asher Weiss, with whom I discussed the matter, leaned to rule that it was permitted to serve on the jury. However, in cases of litigation between two Jews, which must be judged according to Torah law and can involve a problem of gezel, one should avoid serving on the jury.

See also: Shut Beis Avi, vol. 2, no. 144 and vol. 3, no. 162; Mevaser Tov Vol. 2, no. 85.

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