Q: I heard that halachah gives credence to the “law of the land.” Does this mean that all civil law is binding, even among Jews?
A: The Gemara (Nedarim 28a; Gittin 10b) teaches that dina d’malchusa dina — the law of the kingdom is law. This ruling is cited unequivocally in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 369:6-11).
The ruling applies both to governing by a king, as previously common, and in a democracy, as common nowadays. Either way, though, the government’s authority is rooted in its acceptance by the populace. However, one who rules by force and whose authority is not accepted by them is considered a thief. Furthermore, some maintain that the king cannot create new laws, but can rule only based on the accepted rulings of former kings. Others maintain that he can create new laws if they apply fairly to all (Ramban, B.B. 55a; Maggid Mishneh, Hil. Gezeilah 5:14).
In the coming articles, we will try to understand the basis, scope, and details of this ruling, and its application to monetary disputes among Jews (Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 1:2).