Arbitration With Rabbis: A Litigator’s Tale
March 22, 2024

My first experience before a Beth Din, literally a“House of Judgment,” was a few years ago when I represented a majority owner who was seeking to oust the CEO and minority owner of a retail company. My engagement started like many others: the client called with the issue, I reviewed the operating agreement, which provided for arbitration before the American Arbitration Association, and we sent a demand letter. After some of the usual letter writing back and forth with opposing counsel, I filed papers to start the arbitration. I told my client, “Buckle up; if everything goes right, we are looking at an eight-to 12-month process. We will have some discovery, depositions, some motion practice, and all of the other trappings of the adversarial American civil litigation system.”

However, before the time for the answer had expired, I received an email “hazmana”—the Hebrew word for “invitation.” My client was invited to Beth Din, the informal Jewish arbitration system. My first thought was that this cannot be real. After all, what could three rabbis know about the inner workings of a Florida Limited Liability Company? My next thought was that we could just ignore this email. Indeed, what authority did these rabbis have to summon me or my client to this type of proceeding? My conclusion was none. That said, out of curiosity, I decided to at least look at the Google results for “Beth Din.”

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