Jew becoming a lawyer or judge -halachic problems ✡️⚖️
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- This topic has 55 replies, 21 voices, and was last updated 5 years, 7 months ago by Avi K.
August 15, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm #613415
With my bachelor degree behind me I was long hoping to advance in a career as a lawyer and way off in the future as a judge, perhaps (but unlikely). But before enrolling in law school it hit me that there’s a halachic prohibition against arkaos.
I know there are many frum lawyers and even some frum judges. But just because “people do it” doesn’t make me comfortable knowing it is in fact right. How can a Jewish attorney or judge assist, lifnei iver, another Jew litigating against a Jew in secular court the many times it is prohibited?
Besides lifnei iver there’s also the problem with “Misayeah”. And S”A (Rama 26:1) says assisting another Jew in arkaos is even worse than regular misayeah and such a person is put in cherem.
Of course in a case that has a heter arkaos all this might not be a problem. But I’m sure an attorney Jewish our not will face many and in fact most cases that lack a heter. And “others do it” doesn’t make me comfortable without answers.August 15, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm #1028083☕️coffee addictParticipant
why can’t you work in criminal law and Jews are forced to go into that system?August 15, 2014 3:02 pm at 3:02 pm #1028084DaMosheParticipant
So instead of posting here, why don’t you go ask your Rav about it and see what he says? In the thread about the girl who wants the guy dating her to change his Rav, you wrote:
“Aseh Lecho Rav. You need one Rav who is your go-to for all life’s major questions. Do not deviate. And as your Rav what to do in this case.”
So where is your Rav? Wouldn’t this be a major question? Why not ask him?
Or, could it be that this user (who seems like Joseph) is really a troll?August 15, 2014 6:52 pm at 6:52 pm #1028085
You are allowed to because it is for your livelihood.August 15, 2014 7:33 pm at 7:33 pm #1028086newhereParticipant
First off, I’ve been an attorney for many years and I, like many of my law school friends, have never seen the inside of the court nor have we assisted anyone in litigating matters in front of court. There is a large world of law outside litigation. But aside from your flawed understanding of the legal world, you also have a flawed understanding of halacha. First off- Lifnei Iver only applies if that person you are helping would not be able to do the averiah without you (classic case being giving wine to a nazir who is on the other side of the river), and I can’t imagine a scenario where you are the only attorney this jew can be using. So the only issue here would be mesayea. If you look through the poskim, there are many many hetterim in various scenarios of misayea. It is clear that the rishonim and achronim were not very machmir on it. Rav Moshe, for example, based on a shach, says there is no misayea on a mumar. Others say there is no mesayea if you are getting financial gain. Bottom line- ask a Rav, but odds are he’ll tell you there’s nothing to worry about.August 15, 2014 8:24 pm at 8:24 pm #1028087
I agree with.August 15, 2014 8:27 pm at 8:27 pm #1028088oomisParticipant
There are many forms of law, but the bottom line for most is that Dina d’Malchusah Dina, and a lawyer is subject to those same laws. As much of civil/tort law actually IS based in Torah ideology, I don’t see the problem that some do. And if there really is an issue (say with something that goes mamesh against halacha, i.e. gay marriage), then the lawyer needs to follow his conscience, if he cannot present an effective way of doing his job, and recuse himself (or whatever lawyers do when they cannot argue a certain point). JMO, and I am certain there are many who would disagree with me.August 15, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm #1028089
Lifnay iver is definitely a shaila. There may be heteirm but you’re not correct that it’s a non-issue. If you represent a plaintiff litigating against a Jew without a heter arkaos, because of lifney iver, minimally you need to try to convince him to not violate the issur arkaos and to use beis din. If you can’t convince him perhaps there’s a heter to represent him since he’ll do it anyways without you.
And regarding misayeah, while there are some limited heteirm on some types of mesayeah, regarding violating the prohibition of arkaos the SA I cited above specifically and very clearly says anyone who assists someone else to violate the issur arkaos is put in cherem.August 15, 2014 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm #1028090
Lior, you are totally wrong.August 16, 2014 2:18 am at 2:18 am #1028091popa_bar_abbaParticipant
I fail to see how drafting 200 page contracts goes against halacha in any way.
That’s what most lawyers do.
You should ask this question about doctors though.August 17, 2014 1:40 am at 1:40 am #1028092akupermaParticipant
1. There is always a problem if a Jew is involved in case due to a halacha that one needs to use a Beis Din. That’s the last thing most Jews want to do. One can avoid the matter by specializing an area where that isn’t an issue (administrative law including tax law, since the non-Jewish “king” is a party so Beis Din isn’t involved).
2. Convicting the innocent and aquitting the guilty is a moral issue, but as long as you follow the rules of legal ethics, probably okay.
3. There are halachos about oppressing the poor, but as long as you don’t want get rich, that won’t be a problem.August 17, 2014 2:41 am at 2:41 am #1028093
akuperma, you are wrong on your view point.August 17, 2014 2:55 am at 2:55 am #1028094
I should have been clearer that I am referring to litigation lawyers specifically. Either in the courtroom or assisting in the litigation against a Jew outside of the courtroom.
And prosecutors, now that I think of it.August 17, 2014 3:01 am at 3:01 am #1028095
is there a issue of mesira when it comes to being a prosecuting attorney? or are you fine because …( I’m asking because while there may be a obvious reason why not , my head isn’t working right now so I cant think of one)August 17, 2014 3:23 am at 3:23 am #1028096
Lior,To be or not to be, both of you are wrong.August 17, 2014 3:40 am at 3:40 am #1028097
lior,To be or not to be, both of you are wrong.
I was asking a question.
And nobody is interested in you saying ” you are wrong” we would want you to explain WHY we are wrong. it promotes dialog and discussion that wayAugust 17, 2014 3:50 am at 3:50 am #1028098
To be or not to be, look in the talmud and you will see what I see.August 17, 2014 1:52 pm at 1:52 pm #1028099
TBONTB: Yes, it’s an issue.August 17, 2014 7:50 pm at 7:50 pm #1028100
Lior, you too follow my advice.August 17, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm #1028101
You gave no advice.August 18, 2014 2:41 am at 2:41 am #1028102
To be or not to be, I did.August 18, 2014 4:47 am at 4:47 am #1028103
Even if there’s possible heteirim, however weak or strong as they may be, why get involved in something you need to rely on heteirim for (and may even inadvertently cross the line) when instead you can choose a field of parnassa that is 100% kosher?August 18, 2014 5:08 am at 5:08 am #1028104
Lior, u have a fault option.August 18, 2014 5:26 am at 5:26 am #1028105frumnotyeshivishParticipant
Lior – your viewpoint seems to have changed from someone who desires to be a lawyer but has religious doubts to someone who is set against it. Even if you aren’t Joseph I am not taking you seriously.August 18, 2014 6:13 am at 6:13 am #1028106charliehallParticipant
“is there a issue of mesira when it comes to being a prosecuting attorney? “
No. Because we are in galut and can no longer enforce criminal penalties against other Jews within our own courts, we need to let the secular courts deal with the murderers, rapists, thieves, and swindlers in our midst. In some cases it is a matter of pikuach nefesh!
The only reservation that I’ve heard from any rabbi on this is that the death penalty standards in the US are so far below what is required by Chazal and Rambam for gentile courts that it is not permitted for a Jew to have anything to do with a death penalty case here in the US.August 18, 2014 7:08 am at 7:08 am #1028107EnderParticipant
My understanding is that arkaos is only with regard to civil matters between two jews. Representing a jew against a non-jew is not even a question. If you get into a situation where you have to represent a jew against another jew, you should ask your LOR.August 18, 2014 7:29 am at 7:29 am #1028108
Ender, u are wrong.August 18, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am #1028109
Ender: I am specifically discussing litigation between two Jews or assisting a non Jew to litigate against a Jew.August 18, 2014 2:19 pm at 2:19 pm #1028110ariele (Joseph)Participant
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
-William ShakespeareAugust 18, 2014 3:21 pm at 3:21 pm #1028112newhereParticipant
“Even if there’s possible heteirim, however weak or strong as they may be, why get involved in something you need to rely on heteirim for (and may even inadvertently cross the line) when instead you can choose a field of parnassa that is 100% kosher?”
And which field would that be exactly? G-d gave us a torah with a whole lot of laws so we can delve into it and figure out what is permitted and what is not- not so we can say o man this is too complicated, let’s just drop it.August 18, 2014 4:00 pm at 4:00 pm #1028113akupermaParticipant
One can always be a lawyer and also avoid halachic issues, but as is often the case in many professions, respecting halacha will come with a price. Some types of legal work are clearly against halacha (e.g. assisting someone in a divorce in extorting money from the ex-spouse by refusing to give a “get” as ordered by Beis Din). Others are murky (convicting the innocent and acquitting the guilty in criminal cases). — The same is true in other professions. Just because you are a doctor doesn’t mean you have to perform (“elective”) abortions. Just because you work in the corporate world doesn’t mean you have to be an insider trader. Just because you are a professional athlete doesn’t mean you have to take prohibitted drugs. Just because you run a kosher restaurant doesn’t mean you have to compromise on kashruth. However in general, it is more profitable to be cheat than be honest – in any profession.
If you are entering law since the subject is interesting, you can find honest work and a respectable living. If you are entering law since you think it is an easy way to get rich, you will be miserable and be sorely tempted to cheat.October 22, 2017 7:58 pm at 7:58 pm #1388042
Being a prosecutor is an even far greater issur arkaos.October 22, 2017 8:57 pm at 8:57 pm #1388056
In a real bais din there aren’t lawyers. It’s not the Torah way. Maybe you could become a dayan or a toain.October 22, 2017 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm #1388074GadolhadorahParticipant
Given that the majority of frum yidden living in the U.S. are going to require the services of a lawyer for basic contractual matters, (mortgages, living will directives, tax problems, etc , it is preferable to have a frum attorney who can take into consideration some of the unique issues a goy would not have to worry about. As to judges and prosecutors, its is unfortunate that too many yidden end up in the criminal justice system so having frum judges and prosecutors will also be a positive factor since they can educate other members of the criminal justice system as to our special needs (e.g. trial schedules that take into account shabbosim and yom tovim).October 24, 2017 12:01 am at 12:01 am #1388791chabadgalParticipant
ctlawyer? i thought for sure you would contribute to this discussion. where are you?October 24, 2017 7:40 am at 7:40 am #1388861
I am old enough and wise enough to avoid being baited.
This thread was started by Joseph ion what appears to be a troll mode.
When the Shakespeare quote was posted, my decision was reinforced.
As I have posted in the past:
I don’t practice criminal law
The vast majority of my clients are not Jewish
I insist Jewish Divorce clients go through the Get process.
In CT, the family court judges will (not must) include the requirements of obtaining a Get and who pays for it in the civil divorce decree. I achieved this about 20 years ago.
I encourage Jews seeking to sue a Jew to use the services of a Beis Din, but the few Jews I represent are usually not frum and that idea means nothing to them.
The typical Jew I represent is dealing with Probate Court (Surrogate’s Court for you NYers)>wills, adoptions, name changes, not suing other people.
As others have said there is much work a Jewish lawyer can do without violating halacha. We have to pick and choose what we do, as in any other profession.October 24, 2017 8:43 am at 8:43 am #1388873
Dor, why do you think that the world is black and white? Guilty and innocent can have many shades of gray. To my (non-professional so CTL can correct me if I am wrong) knowledge it is a breach of legal ethics to plead “not guilty” for a client one knows is completely guilty or to prosecute someone one knows is completely not guilty. However, often there are mitigating and/or aggravating circumstances.
JJ, what is a “real” bet din? Toanim rabbani’im have been around for almost 2,000 years. If you are interested in how this developed there is an article in Techumin on this. Ido not remember which volume so you will simply have to do so work yourself. Here in Israel they even have their own professional organization.
1. Yasher koach on your attainments regarding gittin.
2. L’chatchils wills must be written in a certain manner to have halachic validity. There is an organization called “Bais HaVaad Institute of Talmudic Law” which has an e-booklet on the subject. They also give CLE courses (albeit in Brooklyn). suing a jew in secular court.
3. You are correct that non-observant Jews do not care about the prohibition but they do care about time and money. If the local bet din is professional and arrives at a decision in a much shorter time and at much less cost a non-observant Jew might be willing. Here in Israel the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit network has earned such a good reputation that even non-observant judges refer cases for arbitration (they are very anxious to do this as their caseloads are impossibly heavy).October 24, 2017 10:16 am at 10:16 am #1388931Takes2-2tangoParticipant
Toen is a lawyer. The only difference is a toen usually doesnt go to university but many toanim charge more then lawyersOctober 24, 2017 11:09 am at 11:09 am #1388892
A lawyers job is to advocate for the interests of the client to the best of the lawyer’s ability. It is NOT against the Code of Ethics top enter a not-guilty plea for a client the lawyer “knows’ to be guilty. The attorney cannot allow that client to take the stand and testify falsely. If the client insists on taking the stand, the lawyer is obligated to meet with the judge and prosecutor in chambers and say that he is opposed to the client testifying and expects it will not be truthful.
Because the standard of criminal doubt is beyond a reasonable doubt, a lawyer with a ‘guilty’ client who pleads not guilty may present alternative theories of the crime which raise doubt.
Here in OOT America a Beis Din usually has to be brought in from the big city at a great expense and non-frum people are not interested. Unlike in Israel, judge here refer to secular mediation venues.October 24, 2017 11:16 am at 11:16 am #1388913GadolhadorahParticipant
There are several beis dins around the U.S (I’m not familiar with those in EY) that “consult” with frum lawyers on the civil/criminal law consequences of their din torahs as ONE factor among many that they take into consideration. Thousands of frum mosdos in the United States have retained secular lawyers to handle their most routine matters (leases, employment contacts, tax status, insurance, etc) but ALSO adversarial matters that require resort to civil court litigation since a beis din is not a practical option. In the non-frum world, the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, arbitration, mediation etc. are widespread and numerically outnumber the cases that actually end up in court. However, even such heilege rabbonim as the Satmar brothers have led the way in demonstrating that there is a time and need for frum lawyers and civilian courts when, “a beis din simply will not do”.October 24, 2017 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm #1389088
Many of the 10% that go to trial are resolved before a verdict is rendered.
Most attorneys never litigate a case. In the British legal system there are Solicitors who do the bulk of legal work and Barristers who only appear in court hired by the solicitors.October 24, 2017 4:17 pm at 4:17 pm #1389216
A toen is not supposed to act as a lawyer. A real beis din is one that follows Halacha.October 25, 2017 1:31 am at 1:31 am #1389450
CTL, thank you for the correction. However, what if the client admits to his attorney that he committed the crime? May the attorney plead “not guilty” without a qualifier (e.g. “temporary insanity”)? Is thre an ethical requirement to withdraw from the case without explanation (I have read of this being done).
JJ, then what does a toen do? Bring the dayanim coffee?October 25, 2017 6:10 pm at 6:10 pm #1389881
Avik – a toen is supposed to be used when someone is not able to present their case themselves. Let’s say someone who is very shy or is not too bright. They can help to formulate ideas in a more clear and precise way. In most cases there is no need for a toen. It’s become much more popular as a way for beis din to get people not to go to secular court.
A lawyers job is very different.October 25, 2017 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm #1389949
One of the first things law students are taught in their first Criminal law class is don’t ask your client of he did the act for which he/she is charged.
Again, I don’t practice criminal law, but I do teach as an adjunct professor at a law school and have taught Legal Ethics/Professional Responsibility.
If your client admits to having committed the act with which he/she is charged. The lawyer is required to enter a non-guilty plea if that is the wish of the client.
This plea is often entered at the arraignment and/or bail hearing. It is useful in negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor. The client may never go to trial to decide guilt, only before the judge for the acceptance of the plea bargain and for sentencing.
If the client goes to trial for the crime charged, the lawyer must defend the client to the best of his ability. This is usually done by presenting alternative theories of the crime: who else, had motive, opportunity, access, etc. This is not the lawyer making a statement that the client is not guilty, but presenting scenarios that could raise doubt in the eyes of the trier of fact (judge and/or jury). What the lawyer may not do is put the client ion the stand if he knows the client will be lying. I have discussed this in an earlier reply.
Example> my client John Doe is arrested and charged with shoplifting under $200 worth of merchandise. This would be a misdemeanor charge of larceny in the sixth degree in CT. Client tells me he took the goods from the store without paying. I go with client to arraignment, enter the plea of not guilty and he is released on a promise to appear. If he entered a plea of guilty, he would immediately be taken into custody and could be held in jail for up to two business days until he went before a judge for sentencing. He would then on a first offence be offered accelerated rehabilitation. Make restitution, stay clean for a year, pay court costs and all records would be wiped out in one year. If it was a 2nd or 3rd offense, then he’d probably get ordered to pay restitution, a fine, 90 day sentence, suspended and probation for a year.
If he pleads not guilty and has no appreciable record, the prosecuting attorney will want to clear the workload and will offer a small fine, no jail time or probation. No need to be held in jail awaiting a trial. If no previous record, accelerated rehabilitation will be offered. In both these cases with no trial, the client will not be made to pay court costs.
Felonies are different, but pleading your client not guilty may allow him to be out on bail while awaiting trial. A guilty plea usually means instant incarcerationOctober 26, 2017 7:29 am at 7:29 am #1390064
JJ, how is a lawyer’s job different (besides dealing with technical procedural issues)?
CTL, IMHO if the client tells the lawyer that he is guilty it is immoral to provide alternative theories (unless, of course, the attorney thinks that the client is not telling the truth for some reason). Rather if the client refuses a plea agreement he should withdraw from the case. A really interesting scenario would be if the lawyer is a witness to the crime and his name pops up on the public defender list. Would he cross-examine himself? BTW, there is an article on this subject called WHEN THE LAWYER KNOWS THE CLIENT IS GUILTY: CLIENT CONFESSIONS IN LEGAL ETHICS, POPULAR CULTURE, AND LITERATURE, which was delivered in a shorter form as a lecture at the UCLA law school.October 26, 2017 9:24 am at 9:24 am #1390081
Avik – CT could give you a better answer. But as he already explained a lawyer is an advocate. They often give ideas of what to say. They may not directly tell you to lie but they may day if you say xyz you will lose the case (ie leave that out). They could also bring ideas like if you say ABC we can get this much money. They also may know the judges and what kind of arguments work better on them and which not as well. So it’s very different. Lawyers may also help you deal with legal loop holes etc. They may give you idea of other things you could push for that you never thought of or even intended to try and get.October 26, 2017 9:24 am at 9:24 am #1390083
Avi k – lawyers aren’t concerned about “morals”. They deal with their code of “ethics”. These are often in conflict. Also about proposing “alternative theories” is usually immoral. Both sides present what happens and the judges decide. Have a lawyer look at the evidence and then make a story that fits around that evidence is immoral. Both sides should present the truth as they see it.October 26, 2017 9:24 am at 9:24 am #1390084
Avik – another great example of the different is what CT said above. The lawyer will (perhaps in a round about way) tell their client to plead not guilty aka lie. That is the “ethical” thing of a lawyer to do.October 26, 2017 1:44 pm at 1:44 pm #1390358
1. A knowledgeable party to a din Toah can also tailor his claims. For example, someone who knows the laws of “migo” can get out of paying what he really owes.
2. A code of ethic is a system of morality. It may be different than Torah ethics but it is a system. That is why I wrote “immoral” and not “amoral”.
3. Positing an alternative theory is only immoral if it is facetious or the lawyer somehow knows that his client is guilty.
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