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Is there a law in Judaism against obstructing justice?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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The Torah has many laws that fall loosely under the category of obstruction of justice. I hope I haven’t missed out any.



  • It is forbidden to swear falsely.1

  • It is forbidden to withhold testimony. If you know that Mr. X owes Mr. Y 100 dollars, you cannot say, “It’s none of my business; I’ll just stay home and relax.” You are obligated to go to court and tell the court what you know. You cannot plead the fifth.2

  • It is forbidden to testify falsely.3 In certain cases, a false witness is punished with what he would have inflicted on his victim had his false testimony been accepted. (So if A testifies that I stole 100 dollars, he has to pay 100 dollars.)4

  • A judge is forbidden to pervert the law.5

  • A judge is obligated to judge justly.6

  • A judge cannot be afraid of a bully or the mafia.7

  • A judge cannot take a bribe. If he receives even the slightest favor from one of the parties he is disqualified from judging on that case.8

  • A judge is forbidden to cheat for a poor person. (If Bill Gates and a guy on skid row come to court arguing over a hundred bucks, the judge must rule according to law. He cannot say: “Gates is right. But he won’t really miss a hundred dollars, while the other dude will be able to buy some food. So I’ll rule in the poor guy’s favor.” That’s a no-no.)9

  • Conversely, the judge cannot say, “Bill Gates is a prestigious guy, why should I embarrass him by ruling against him?” The judge cannot tamper with the law to suit the sentiments of the individual parties.10

  • A judge is not allowed to listen to one party without the presence of the other party.11

Footnotes

  • 1. Exodus 20:7 Leviticus 19:12
  • 2. Leviticus 5:1
  • 3. Exodus 20:13
  • 4. Deuteronomy 19:19
  • 5. Deuteronomy 16:19
  • 6. Deuteronomy 16:18
  • 7. Deuteronomy 1:17
  • 8. Exodus 23:8
  • 9. Leviticus 19:15
  • 10. ibid
  • 11. Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 7b

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.