Invitation to attend Beis Din / Din Torah
How should I respond to a Hazmono L’Din (invitation to attend a Din Torah)?
It's not uncommon to feel anxious when receiving a Hazmono l'din, but really one shouldn't be. The process isn't difficult to understand, it's user friendly and it's cost efficient.
People often ask:
"What are my rights and obligations?"
"Do I have to come to the Beis Din that contacted me?"
"What information can I request before attending the hearing?"
Can a Din Torah be conducted over video conferencing?
"What are the costs?"
Halacha mandates that adjudication be before a Beis Din, but it does not necessarily mandate that one accept the Beis Din that sent the invitation.
If the parties reside in different cities, the defendant can insist that the matter be heard in his locale. Where both parties live in the same locale, neither side can force the other to accept a specific Beis Din. Even where only one Beis Din exists, unless this Beis Din has been democratically elected (such a Beis Din is “Kavuah”), the system of Zablo (in which each party picks a dayan and the two dayanim select a third) is employed if the parties cannot agree on a particular Beis Din. Such is the situation in almost all major, contemporary Jewish communities.
If one receives a request to attend a Din Torah, even if it is received from a Beis Din that is not Kavuah, one should respond respectfully and promptly and follow the Beis Din’s procedural instructions. That Beis Din is obliged and empowered by Halacha to ensure that the request for a Din Torah is fulfilled. It is also their responsibility to assure that a Beis Din is constituted efficiently and according to Halachic principles. If the Beis Din is of the opinion that a party’s dayan of choice is unfit to serve that role, they can disallow him. If a reasonable panel cannot be efficiently set up according to Halachic principles, the Beis Din could then halachicly insist that the matter be heard before them. If a party refuses, a Ksav Siruv (a bill of refusal) or a Heter Arko’os (Halachic permission to attend secular court also known as Nesinas Reshus) may be issued.
Ideally the hearing should take place face-to-face. Where this is difficult, the parties can agree to have their dispute heard before a tribunal over video conferencing, over the telephone or even via email.
In terms of costs, a Din Torah essentially shouldn't cost the parties anything. [A Beis Din cannot insist that a party appear if it isn't ready to hear the matter free of cost. If the Beis Din issues a Hazmono and it requires payment, the Hazmono is invalid. Expecting a fee in this context (i.e. the Mazmin threatens to issue a Ksav Siruv or Heter Arko’os shall the respondent refuse to comply) is extortion and gezel (thievery).] A standard Din Torah is not only cost effective but it is also time efficient. That said, parties to a dispute might prefer a more lengthy format, and they might also wish to bring a lawyer or To'en (rabbinic representative) to the Din Torah. This format is acceptable if both parties are in agreement, however the arbitrators would then be in a position to charge a fee. The parties might choose to have an arbitration lawyer assist the Beis Din. A fee could also be expected if the parties want a zablo hearing where each party gets to speak to his dayan of choice before the hearing (in this scenario the two dayanim would agree on a third and the panel would consist of 2 somewhat partial arbitrators and only one that is completely impartial). It is important to point out that either side can insist on the default halachic format (a free Din Torah where the parties represent themselves and no lawyer or To'en is present) and a Ksav Siruv (a bill of refusal) cannot be issued against such a party even if it cannot find dayonim who are prepared to adjudicate free of charge. In summation, although one is obliged to attend Din Torah when requested, he cannot be forced to spend money.
Finally, it is sufficient that a “hazmana” contains the identity of the plaintiff and the nature and amount of the claim. The plaintiff does not have to divulge proof of his claim.
If you’ve received a Hazmono and require halachic guidance, you can send us an email.
How do I initiate a Din Torah?
If you wish to invite someone to a Din Torah, you can either email them and CC the Beis Din or you can have the Beis Din email the other party on your behalf. For the Beis Din to do this, it would require:
1. The name and email address of the claimant.
2. The name and email address of the respondent.
3. The nature of the claim (this should be a sentence or two describing the nature of the claim and what remedy you seek).
4. How long you are prepared to wait for a response from the respondent.
Should you choose the latter option, you could email Mehadr Beis Din Tribunal the above information. We will contact you if we require any additional information before we proceed. Mehadr Beis Din Tribunal charges a flat fee of $250 for a Hazmono to be sent on behalf of the claimant.