Ketubot 105 - Judges' salaries

There were two prominent judges in Jerusalem, who were setting new laws. Actually, there were 394 courts in Jerusalem, and the corresponding number of schools for adults and for children, but we are talking only about judges who were promulgating new decrees.

Each of these judges had a court of twenty-three people, with a budget of ninety-nine maneh, to support the court members and their families. This amounted to 140 zuz per family per year, about 70% of the Ketubah amount on which a woman can live for a year. The court salaries came from the Temple treasury.

A judge by the name of Karna would take a payment from both of the litigants and then judge them. How is that possible, being that it amounts to a bribe? It is forbidden to take a bribe to judge incorrectly, or even to judge correctly, and even if the judge may miss a chance to make a living!? - Karna was a well-known wine taster, and by smelling the wine in the storage he could advise if it should be sold immediately. Since he was losing these definite earnings, he was allowed to take a payment for lost wages.

Shmuel was once crossing a bridge, and a man helped him. Shmuel immediately disqualified himself from being a judge in his case. Even praise is considered a bribe.

Rabbi Yishmael had a sharecropper who would bring produce due to Rabbi Yishmael every Friday. Once he brought it on Thursday, saying that he had a court case, so he brought the fruit earlier. Rabbi Yishmael disqualified himself from judging, but went to listen to the proceedings, and found himself constantly advancing the best arguments for the sharecropper in his mind. He said, "If I, who did not accept the bribe, and the produce was mine anyway, react so, then how much more false is the judgment of one who accepts bribe!"

Art: The Roman Wine Tasters by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema