The following laws apply whenever a judge adjudicates a case involving financial matters and errs. If his error involves matters that are revealed and known - e.g., a law that is explicitly stated in the Mishnah or the Gemara, the ruling is reversed. The situation is returned to its original status and the judgment required by halachah is rendered. If it is impossible to return the matter to its original status, e.g., the person who unwarrantedly received the money traveled overseas, or he was a stubborn and strong person, the judge is not liable. Although he caused a loss, he did not have the intent of doing so. Similar laws apply if a judge ruled that a substance that was pure was impure, that an animal that was kosher was unacceptable and had it fed to the dogs, or the like.
Different principles apply if the judge errs in a case requiring a decision to be made by using one's logic to weigh alternative positions, for example, a case arouse involving the subject of a difference of opinion among the Sages of the Mishnah or the Sages of the Gemara where it was not explicitly stated whose opinion the halachah follows. The judge decided to follow one opinion without knowing it had already been universally established practice within the Torah community to follow the other view.
In such a situation, if the judge was an expert who had been given license to adjudicate cases by the exiliarch, or even if he had not been given such license, but the litigants voluntarily accepted him as their judicial authority, the ruling is reversed. The rationale is that he is an expert.
If the ruling cannot be reversed, he is not liable to make restitution. This applies both to a judge who received permission from the exiliarch or one received permission from a Jewish court to adjudicate cases in Eretz Yisrael, but not to serve as judge in the diaspora, as explained.
Different rules apply if the person who erred in a question of logical deduction was an expert judge, but he had not received license to adjudicate cases, nor was he accepted by the litigants as an authority, or was not an expert, but was accepted by the litigants to adjudicate their case according to Torah law. If he personally took property from one litigant and gave it to the other, his actions are irreversible and he should pay the damages from his own resources. If, however, he did not personally take the property from one and give it to the other, the decision should be reversed. If the decision cannot be reversed, he should pay the damages from his own resources.
When, however, a person is not an expert and was not accepted by the litigants adjudicates a case, even though he was given permission to act as a judge, he is considered as one of the men of force and not as a proper judge. Therefore, the judgment he renders is of no consequence. This applies whether he erred or whether he did not err. Either one of the litigants may withdraw and have the case adjudicated by a proper court.
If such a judge erred and personally gave property from one litigant to the other, he is obligated to pay from his own resources. He may then regain the money from the litigant to whom he gave property unlawfully. If one litigant paid the other because of the ruling of such a judge and the recipient is unable to return the money or if the judge rendered an object ritually impure or gave meat that was kosher to the dogs to eat, the judge must bear the loss as is the law regarding anyone who causes damages. For such a person has the intent of causing damages.
When a judge errs and obligates a person who is not required to take an oath to do so, and in order to free himself from the obligation to take the oath, this person negotiated a compromise with the other litigant, the compromise may be revoked. Even though he affirmed the compromise with a kinyan, it is of no substance. He agreed to pay or to waive the other person's liability only to free himself from the oath to which the person who erred obligated him. And whenever a kinyan is carried out on the basis of an error, it is annulled. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.
When two people are involved in a dispute concerning a judgment, one states: "Let us have the matter judged here," and the other says, "Let us ascend to the Supreme Court, lest these judges err and expropriate money contrary to the law," we compel the latter litigant to have the matter adjudicated locally.
If he asks the judges: "Write down the rationale why you have rendered this judgment against me and give it to me, lest you have erred," they must write down their rationales and give him the transcript. Afterwards, they expropriate what he owes. If the local judges feel the need to ask for clarification regarding a matter from the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, they should write down their question and send it. After their inquiry, the judgment should be rendered in the local court on the basis of the answer written to them by the Supreme Court.
When does the above apply? With regards to judgments dependent on claims issued by both litigants or a situation when a lender desires to have the case adjudicated locally and the borrower says: "Let us go to the Supreme Court." If, by contrast, the lender says: "Let us go to the Supreme Court," we compel the borrower to ascend with the lender, as implied by Proverbs 22:7: "A borrower is a servant to the lender."
Similarly, if a person claims that his colleague injured or damaged his person or his property or stole from him, and the plaintiff desires to ascend to the Supreme Court, the local court compels the defendant to ascend together with him. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.
When does the above apply? When the person from who property was stolen, the person who suffered injury or damage, or the lender has witnesses or proof that support his claim. When, however, his claim is unsupported, we do not obligate the defendant to leave his locale. Instead, he takes an oath there and is freed of obligation.
Similar concepts apply in the present age, when there is no Supreme Court, but there are places where there are great sages whose expertise is renown and there are other places where there are scholars who are not on that level. If the lender says: "Let us go to this-and-this place in this-and-this land to have the case adjudicated by so-and-so, the great sage," we compel the borrower to go with him. This was the practice continually in Spain.
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