Deuteronomy 17:8 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. 9 Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10 You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do. 11 Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12 Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. 13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.

This is from the easy English site.

Some decisions were too difficult for local judges to make. There are three situations here. The first was about a person’s death. They had to decide whether it was by accident or by plan. The second was about which person had particular rights. The third was about a serious attack. The head of the court was probably the chief priest. The court made the final decision. The Lord helped the judges to make the decision. Also, the judges had good experience. The people must act in agreement with the decisions of the judges. The people killed anyone who refused to obey the judge or the priest. That was because that person was acting against God.

This is from that site.

Keep in mind, these instructions are given to the people as they are preparing to go over and inhabit their new land. They will be spread out - decentralized for the first time in their history. This section deals with appeals made to a higher court (so to speak). If you take a legal matter to the priest or to one of the judges in Israel for that ultimate level of mediation (criminal or civil), he's the man! After he rules on a matter, if you disregard the's a death sentence.

This is from

The authority of the judges had to be respected, therefore contempt of court was a capital crime. God thought it essential that the courts and the judges be respected by the people of Israel.

Things have really changed.... haven't they?