Chapter 16: Biased witnesses Cont.
Halacha 1: A victim of robbery testifying regarding his stolen item
- A victim of robbery may not testify regarding an item or property that was stolen from him, such as to testify that it does not belong to a third party who is also claiming ownership of the item, as the victim has a bias, as perhaps it is easier for him to retrieve the item from the robber than from the third party.
Halacha 2: If the stolen item was already sold
- In the event that the robber already sold the stolen item, then since it legally now belongs to the buyer, and if the robber has died, the victim from whom the item was stolen may testify regarding it in relation to it not belonging to a third party who is also claiming ownership. If, however, the robber still alive, and he remains invalid for testimony due to his bias and stand for gain.
- The same applies in a case that the robber has died and has inherited the stolen item to his children, nonetheless, the victim cannot testify regarding its ownership that it does not belong to a third party.
Halacha 3: A seller testifying regarding a sold piece of real estate
- If one sold real estate he may not testify regarding it being owned by the buyer, in the event that a third party comes to take it from the buyer under the claim that he is owed money. This applies even if it was sold to the buyer without financial liability [in the event that it is taken as a lien against a loan].
- The reason for this is because there is financial gain that stands for the seller with this testimony, as if the land remains by the buyer, his creditors may take the land without him holding any financial responsibility towards the buyer.
Halacha 4: A seller testifying regarding a sold animal
- If one sold an animal he may testify regarding it being owned by the buyer, in the event that a third party comes to take it from the buyer under the claim that he is owed money.
- The reason for this is because there is no financial gain that stands for the seller with this testimony.
- Nonetheless, this only applies if in truth the case involves no financial gain for the seller, if however there is some possibility of financial gain for the seller, such as if he may be held responsible for refunding the sale, then he may not testify as he stands to gain from this testimony.
The general rule of invalidation due to bias:
- The general rule is as follows: Every judge must discern and contemplate well as to if there is any bias or possible gain for the witness in his testimony.
- A rare bias: Even if this potential gain is of great rarity to occur and therefore extremely unlikely to occur, nonetheless, the judge must invalidate the testimony of such a witness.
- Judges thus must have great insight into the laws relating to business and commerce in order so we can probably discern any bias on the side of the witness.
The invalidation of a judge due to bias:
- Just as we invalidate a witness due to bias of potential gain, so too, a judge is invalid to rule over a case in which he has a bias due to a possible gain that he received from the outcome of the case.
- The same applies regarding all invalidations, that any invalidation which invalidates the testimony of a witness, likewise invalidate this person from residing as a judge over the case.
Halacha 5: No relatives in the Court
- Based on the above, a court may never contain two judges who are relatives of each other, [being that they are invalid to testify in each other’s behalf, and one who is invalid for testimony is likewise invalid for judgment as explained above].
- This applies whether by a High Court of 71 judges or a small court of 23 judges.
- The one exception to this is by the court of seven judges which presides over the enacting of a leap year, in which case the added judges may be relatives of each other.
Halacha 6: A valid judge is also a valid witness but not the opposite
- Anyone who is valid to serve as a judge is also valid to serve as a witness.
- However, not everyone who is valid to serve as a witness is valid to serve as a judge.
- The following is a list of individuals who may testify in court as witnesses, but are invalid to sit as judges in cases involving capital punishment:
- a friend of one of the parties,
- an enemy of one of the parties,
- a convert,
- an emancipated slaves,
- a very old man,
- A saris [one who has never reached the signs of puberty and cannot have children]
- a Mamzer/basterd,
- one who is blind in one eye.