Recently I have heard from Charedi acquaintances that one is forbidden to sue in the general courts because they are considered “gentile authorities.” I would appreciate your clarifying this prohibition for me.
The Jewish religion rejects turning to Israeli courts of law for logical, social, and religious reasons, and these are the reasons the Israeli society must reject the existence of a legal system (the rabbinical courts) which reject its own legal system. There is no greater sign of moral bankruptcy than a legal system which gives legal approval to another legal system, one which rejects it.
You must understand two basic things which exist in every defined human society, be it a nation or a state, and two more which suit a religious society:
1. Every society, community, nation, or ethnicity which has a legal system and laws defined by norms and values which it understands and which seem to it desirable and appropriate is not interested in being judged by other systems which do not follow its laws and values.
2. The government or authority figure aspires to rule over its dependants, and one of the ways of doing so is through the courts of law. By the nature of things those in power will forbid appeals to other courts of law because such a step weakens the sovereign power — even in cases where the system of laws is similar.
3. Religious society, which believes that its commands and laws are of Divine origin, forbids its believers to approach courts of law which follow human systems of laws because such a step is seen by the religious as a challenge against the Lord.
4. A religious community which believes that its laws are Divine will necessarily suppose (not that this is the truth, but this is what they preach at their believers) that the laws which have been ruled are eternal, because the will of G-d, the True Will, does not change.
After this introduction we will quote the Halachic ruling of Rabbi Ovadiah Yossef, formerly the Chief Rabbi of the state of Israel and the man who sat at the head of the rabbinical courts of that country:
Question: Since it is known that according to the rule of Torah daughters do not inherit from their fathers if there are sons, in contrast with the secular law, according to which secular law courts rule that daughters inherit equally with sons, are daughters permitted, by Halacha, to sue for their part of the inheritance in a secular court of law and receive a bill of inheritance in accord with the law, relying on the Halachic rule of ‘the law of the land is the law’?
Summary of answer:
According to Halacha, based on our holy Torah which is our life and our longevity, and whose words are our guiding light, it is utterly forbidden to judge inheritance and property cases or any torts except in accord with the Torah, which is eternal and will never, G-d forbid, change. “What is revealed is for us and our sons forever, to uphold all the words of this teaching” (as Maimonides wrote in Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah 7:7). Therefore there is a grave prohibition against being judged on any of these matters before courts which rule in accordance with gentile laws; it is said, “and their laws you shall not know.” There is no difference if the judges are gentiles or Jews who judge in accord with gentile laws and not in accord with the laws of the Torah. If the sons want to relinquish a portion of their inheritance in favor of the daughters, so that they can share in the inheritance, they should approach a rabbinical court in their area and let them purchase it properly, outright or incidentally (like a coin which is not purchased through barter), according to the laws of the Torah. And so may this entire nation rest peacefully” (Responsa Yichveh Daat 4:65).