THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Revised October, 2004
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- ORAL HEARINGS
- NO DISCUSSIONS OUTSIDE COUNCIL MEETINGS
- RECONSIDERATION OF COUNCIL ACTION
- RULES MAY BE AMENDED
RULES OF PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
- The officers of the Judicial Council shall be a President, a Vice President, and a Secretary, to be elected quadrennially by a majority vote of the Council.
- The President shall perform all the duties incident to the office of a Chief Officer of a Judicial Body, including the right to call the Judicial Council into session, as provided by the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
- In case of absence or inability of the President, or at the request of the President, the Vice President shall perform all duties incident to the office of President.
- The Secretary shall perform all duties incident to the position of Secretary or Clerk of a Judicial Body, and such other duties as shall be requested by the Judicial Council, including but not limited to the following:
- Notify the President of the Judicial Council immediately upon the filing of any matter submitted for inclusion on the docket, with a full and complete statement of the matter involved, together with any additional data as deemed necessary.
- Keep a correct and complete record of all proceedings, actions, and decisions of the Judicial Council.
- Keep the docket and perform the duties associated with this (See III).
- Furnish at the earliest possible date upon the completion of the work, copies of the decisions of the Judicial Council to other members of the Council and to all parties to each docket item and to no other persons or organizations except as authorized by the President.
- During a session of General Conference deliver signed copies of Judicial Council decisions requested by General Conference to the Secretary of the General Conference, and after oral presentation to the General Conference, to the Daily Christian Advocate;
- Send to the president and secretary of the Council of Bishops, and all other persons provided in ï¿½ 2612 of the 2004 Discipline, signed copies of all decisions of the Judicial Council.
- Notify the Committee on Correlation and Revision of the Discipline of any action of the Judicial Council which declares unconstitutional any paragraph of the Discipline.
- Send to the Archives of The United Methodist Church at the conclusion of any regularly scheduled or special session of the Judicial Council all materials relating to docket items finally disposed of together with signed copies of each decision and the minutes of the meeting.
- There shall be a regularly scheduled meeting of the Judicial Council the last full week of October and the last full week of April each year, except in the year of General Conference the meeting just before and during General Conference shall take the place of the regularly scheduled April meeting.
- The President, in consultation with the Secretary, may determine that the matters before the Judicial Council are insufficient to warrant a meeting. In this case the announcement of such cancellation shall be published in The Interpreter.
- In the case of an emergency appeal the President may call for a special meeting of the Judicial Council, provided that as much notice as possible be given to insure that all persons wishing to submit briefs or other documents will be given sufficient time to do so.
- When any matter is appealed to the Judicial Council for determination, the document and any additional materials shall be filed with the Secretary of the Judicial Council.
- It is the responsibility of the secretary of an annual conference, board, agency, or other body or person authorized by the Discipline to appeal to the Judicial Council to provide the Secretary of the Judicial Council with materials relating to the matter being appealed, including a copy of the minutes where such matter arose in the normal proceedings of the body. (See Appendix A for a sample letter to all annual conference secretaries in mid-May of each year.)
- All Decisions of Law by Bishops at annual conference sessions must be reported by the bishop to the Judicial Council on the forms provided for such reports. (See Appendix B for Guidelines for such decisions.)
- All requests for declaratory decisions (ï¿½ 2610 of the 2004 Discipline) must be received by the Secretary by July 15 or December 31 for inclusion on the fall or spring docket, respectively.
- The Secretary shall prepare a copy of the docket for the regularly scheduled fall and spring meetings for publication in Newscope at least 30 days prior to the meeting of the Judicial Council as required by ï¿½ 2612 of the 2004 Discipline.
- When the docket for the regularly scheduled fall and spring meetings has been set, the Secretary shall send copies to other members of the Judicial Council, United Methodist News Service, The Interpreter, InfoServ and other persons or organizations as may be deemed appropriate.
- Persons providing the Secretary of the Judicial Council with matters for consideration by the Council at its next regularly scheduled meeting shall provide the names and addresses for all persons making motions, signing the requests for decisions, and any other persons deemed appropriate to be notified and invited to submit briefs or other materials.
- All persons whose names and addresses have been provided to the Secretary of the Judicial Council as parties to any proceeding on the docket shall be notified of the time, place, and process for filing a brief setting forth a position on the docket item as well as the names and addresses of other persons so involved. (See Appendix C for a sample cover letter and Appendix D for Guidelines for Submission of Briefs.)
- Any person who wishes to comment on any matter coming before the Judicial Council may submit a brief. However, the submission of a brief does not make one a party to the proceeding.
- Any briefs submitted to the Judicial Council are to be submitted to the Secretary sixty (60) days before the session at which the matter will be considered. Ten (10) copies of each brief shall be submitted, signed by the person submitting the brief. An electronic copy of the brief in either Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect format is to be filed with the Secretary of the Judicial Council at firstname.lastname@example.org if possible.
- Each brief filed by a party to the proceeding must also be sent to all others identified as parties to the proceeding.
- Any person identified as a party to the proceeding shall submit to the Secretary a list of the person(s) to whom the brief has been sent, certifying thereby all the persons identified as parties to the proceeding have been sent copies.
- The ten copies of the brief required by IV(C) shall not be transmitted by telefacsimile or e-mail.
- All persons, whether in the submission of written documents or oral communications, shall at all times conduct themselves with dignity and propriety and shall yield gracefully to the rulings of the Council and avoid detrimental remarks, both in session and out, and shall at all times promote respect for the Council.
V. ORAL HEARINGS
- There shall be scheduled a time at each session of the Judicial Council where parties to the proceeding shall present oral arguments.
- Oral arguments are not automatically granted and must be requested by a party to the proceeding.
- Any requests for oral arguments must be submitted to the Secretary of the Judicial Council who will forward them immediately to the President for a decision on granting the request.
- A decision granting or denying the request for oral argument will be communicated in writing by the President or the Secretary of the Judicial Council to the person making the request.
- Oral arguments normally will not be granted in cases of the review of a Bishopï¿½s Decision of Law (ï¿½ 2609 of the 2004 Discipline).
- Oral arguments will be confined to the time allotted by the Judicial Council. If more than one part to the proceeding is speaking for the same position, all such parties shall share the allotted time.
- Persons presenting oral arguments may reserve up to 5 minutes of the allotted time for rebuttal. Such time for rebuttal is not automatically granted but must be requested before the argument is begun.
- All decisions by the Council shall be in writing and shall include the reasons for the decision as required by ï¿½ 2612 of the 2004 Discipline.
- The decisions will be released to all parties to the proceedings as soon as practicable, and on order of the President, and shall carry the disclaimer ï¿½Subject to further correction and revision.ï¿½
- Each decision will have a digest which is to be printed in The Interpreter within 90 days following the date of the decision as required by ï¿½ 2612 of the 2004 Discipline.
- As soon as practicable following the meeting the decisions of the Judicial Council shall be transmitted to United Methodist Communications for inclusion on the Internet site maintained for such decisions.
- Following necessary corrections and revisions the decisions shall be sent to The United Methodist Publishing House for publication in pamphlet form.
- Signed copies of the decisions shall be forwarded to the President and Secretary of the Council of Bishops and to the United Methodist Archives.
VII. NO DISCUSSIONS OUTSIDE COUNCIL MEETINGS
- The members of the Judicial Council will not permit discussion with them on any matters pending before them, or that may be referred to them for determination by any persons other than Judicial Council members. (ï¿½ 2607 of the 2004 Discipline).
- While strictly observing the intent of the preceding paragraph, a member of the Council to whom a docket item has been assigned by the President may request that the Secretary secure from persons and/or agencies concerned directly or indirectly with the case pertinent facts, briefs, and supplementary statements. Copies of such additional materials shall be sent promptly by the Secretary of the Council to other members of the Council.
- The President or Secretary of the Council may advise persons on procedural matters relating to docket items.
- No member of the Judicial Council shall interpret or comment on any decision made by the Judicial Council.
VIII. RECONSIDERATION OF COUNCIL ACTION
- Whenever a decision of the Judicial Council is shown clearly to be in error, or in order to prevent a manifest injustice resulting from the interpretation of a Judicial Council decision, the Judicial Council on its own motion, or on a petition filed by a party to the proceedings, may, by a majority vote, reconsider any ruling or action taken by it.
- A vote to reconsider may be taken outside the regular Judicial Council meetings by written ballot to the Secretary.
- Any request for reconsideration must be filed with the Secretary or President of the Council within a period of ninety (90) days following the date of the decision. A majority of the Judicial Council members must vote in favor of reconsideration for it to be placed on the docket.
- The person(s) requesting reconsideration shall be notified in writing by the Secretary of the Council as soon as the votes of the members are received.
- A denial of reconsideration shall be reported with the decisions made at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Judicial Council.
- Any reconsideration which is approved shall be placed on the docket for the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Judicial Council. An announcement of the reconsideration will be published as soon as possible.
- Any request for reconsideration should include one or more of the following:
- A list of all new relevant facts;
- An indication of relevant law and/or decisions of the Judicial Council and/or Discipinary sections which were not previously considered and should have been;
- A specific explanation of the error or manifest injustice found in the Judicial Council ruling.
- When the petition for reconsideration is made by the Judicial Council itself, the Council, in its discretion, may notify the parties to the proceedings of the issues of facts, law and/or error/mistakes which have caused the Council to reconsider its ruling. These persons, if notified, shall have thirty (30) days after receiving notification in which to respond.
- Oral argument may be requested by the Council.
IX. RULES MAY BE AMENDED
These rules may be amended, repealed, or suspended at any session of the Judicial Council by a majority vote of the members.
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Secretary of Each Annual Conference
(If you are no longer secretary, please forward to new secretary)
FROM: F. Belton Joyner, Jr., Secretary of the Judicial Council
RE: Requests for Decisions by the Judicial Council
PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE MEMO CAREFULLY.
If the business of the 2004 session of your annual conference includes any of the following, please notify me immediately:
- A decision of law made by a bishop in response to a written question during the Annual Conference session (ï¿½2609(6) of the 2004 Discipline);
- A request for a ruling as to the legality of an action by any body created or authorized by a General, Jurisdictional, or Central Conference (ï¿½2609(5);
- An appeal from a bishopï¿½s decision (ï¿½2609(7)); or
- A petition for a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council (ï¿½2610).
Your notification to me should indicate which of the above categories applies. It should also include the name, position, and address of the person who asked for the bishopï¿½s decision of law or who made the motion to send the request or appeal to the Judicial Council. If there are other persons you feel should receive notification about submitting briefs, please include their full names and addresses. Please supply the exact wording of the motion and relevant information about the context of the action.
Even if all of the above information is not immediately available, please notify me within 24 hours of the adjournment of your annual conference, so that I can get your case on the docket for our Fall meeting.
All I need to know immediately is the general nature of any case originating in your annual conference. You and I can work together later to gather the details as needed. It is urgent that I receive the first notice as early in June as possible to meet all the deadlines for the Fall meeting. The docket will be set by June 30th to give persons time to get notification and briefs filed by the due date in early September.
Please do not rely on anyone else in your conference to notify the Judicial Council of cases arising there. That will almost certainly result in your request not being heard until April 2005.
You may notify me of matters from your annual conference either by letter: F. Belton Joyner, Jr., 1821 Hillandale Road, Suite 1B, PMB 334, Durham, NC 27705; FAX 919-287-2666; or e-mail: email@example.com.
GUIDELINES FOR BISHOP'S DECISIONS ON QUESTIONS OF LAW:
The Judicial Council has received a significant number of rulings by bishops on "questions of law" under ï¿½ 2613, including (October 1996 Dockets V, VI, VII, and VIII) April 1997 Dockets I, II, III, and IV. The duty of the bishop is to respond with a ruling to all submitted questions of law. A ruling is required even if the ruling is simply that the question is moot, hypothetical or improperly submitted. There are categories of so-called "questions of law" which should be identified by the bishop in rulings for review by the Judicial Council, but not given substantive responses. Among these are the following:
a) Moot and hypothetical questions:
Decision 33 is the landmark decision defining the issue on moot and hypothetical questions:
"Moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided."
Regarding moot and hypothetical questions, the key principle is "Moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided." This principal has been followed in numerous decisions including more recent Decisions 396, 651, 746, 747, 762 and 763.
b) Judicial and Administrative procedures:
The bishop has no authority to make substantive rulings on judicial or administrative matters. Such matters are limited to the purview of the judicial or administrative bodies such as Committee on Investigation, Trial Court, Committee on Appeals or Judicial Council. The Constitution (ï¿½ 18) and the 1996 Discipline (ï¿½ï¿½ 358, 2623, and 2626-2628) have placed the authority to resolve such questions in these bodies. To do otherwise would violate the principle of separation and balance of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches as set forth in the Constitution.
Questions which are procedural or substantive matters relating solely to actions in a judicial or administrative process are not proper questions to be addressed in a substantive ruling by a bishop. However, these questions are properly addressed by an appeal to the presiding officer of a Trial Court [ï¿½ 2627.1(a)(3)]. In regard to errors during a trial, errors of procedure or law are properly addressed in the appellate process to the Committee on Appeals of the Jurisdiction [2628.1(g)]. Such questions are not proper questions for the bishop in that these are not matters concerning the regular business of the Annual Conference. By the Constitution and other paragraphs of the 1996 Discipline, such questions belong to the judicial bodies of the Church.
The question dealing with the Judicial Council's authority to provide its own method of organization and procedure is properly considered only by the General Conference (ï¿½ 2608.1) which also must be considered in light of such inherent authority of the Judicial Council under the Constitution. The proper ruling of the bishop is to rule that a bishop has no authority to deal with such matters.
The question related to a violation of confidentiality is improper in that it poses a question which asks the bishop to find a chargeable offense. After following the supervisory process, the bishop's authority is to forward a complaint based upon the disciplinary chargeable offenses. The questions asked of Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan are, in fact, hypothetical, improper and moot.
The following are recommended guidelines for requesting a bishop's ruling on a question of law:
- Only a member of the Annual Conference shall be eligible to present in writing a request for a ruling on a question of law in the regular business of a session.
- Questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the question must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue of a matter upon which the conference takes action.
- Questions of law shall be entered in the Annual Conference journal record as an exact statement of the questions and the ruling of the bishop by the secretary of the Annual Conference and properly submitted to the Judicial Council (ï¿½ 2613).
- Failure of the proper action of the conference secretary, in and of itself, does not negate the responsibility of the bishop to rule and the Judicial Council to review the ruling.
- The bishop shall rule on all questions presented as questions of law under ï¿½ 2613, which shall be submitted by a member of the Annual Conference in writing in the regular business of a session.
- When the bishop determines that the question presented is not a properly presented "question of law", the bishop shall state the rationale in the ruling without further substantive commentary. In brief, all rulings shall be forwarded to the Judicial Council for review ï¿½ 2613). While there are no restrictions on presentations of any so-called "questions of law" to a bishop, there are numerous decisions which clearly state that the hypothetical, moot and improper questions are not in fact questions of law requiring a substantive answer. In such cases wherein the bishop has determined that the so-called "question of law" is either a hypothetical, moot or improper question, the bishop must, however, so rule and follow the procedure for review by the Judicial Council. The council has repeatedly noted that questions of law must relate to actual situations and must set forth the circumstances or acts upon which a specific ruling may be rendered.
Excerpted from Memorandum 799, April 25, 1997
TO: INTERESTED PARTIES TO DOCKET NO. _______ PENDING
BEFORE THE _______________ SESSION OF THE JUDICIAL
COUNCIL OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
FROM: F. BELTON JOYNER, JR., SECRETARY,
JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
RE: FILING OF BRIEFS
I enclose a copy of the Docket for the ______________ Session of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church, and a copy of the Guidelines for the Preparation of Briefs for the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church. The Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council state that briefs are to be filed sixty (60) days prior to the meeting of the Judicial Council where the docket item is to be considered. The ___________ Session will be held from _____________________ in ____________________, ____________. For the ______________ Session, briefs must be filed with the Secretary of the Judicial Council on or before ___________________. The Rules require that you file ten (10) copies of any brief signed by the party submitting the briefs. The ten copies of the brief are not to be transmitted by telefacsimile or e-mail. An electronic copy of the brief in either Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect format is to be filed with the Secretary of the Judicial Council at firstname.lastname@example.org if possible. You have been identified as an interested party with respect to Docket No. _____________.
If you elect to file a brief with the Judicial Council, please note that you are responsible for sending copies of your brief and any supporting materials to all others who are interested parties. A copy of the list of interested parties identified to date with respect to this matter is also enclosed. According to the enclosed Guidelines, you must send me a list of interested parties and any other persons receiving the brief when you submit your brief to me.
Any request for oral hearing on this matter must be received by me in writing on or before ______________________ as well. Oral hearings are not automatic and must be requested. Oral hearings are not granted with respect to the review of a bishopï¿½s decision of law except in extraordinary circumstances. The granting of an oral hearing in all matters is entrusted to the discretion of the President of the Judicial Council.
In forwarding your brief, please do not send it by registered or certified mail or return receipt requested as this will delay its receipt by me. Briefs should be addressed to F. Belton Joyner, Jr., 1821 Hillandale Road, Suite 1B, PMB 334, Durham, NC 27705. You may communicate with me electronically at email@example.com. If you have any questions, please contact me at the phone number listed above or by email.
GUIDELINES FOR THE PREPARATION OF BRIEFS
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL
THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The Judicial Council invites any person to file a brief in any case on its docket. It is not necessary to be a party to the proceeding nor is an invitation required for any person or group to file a brief. Anyone is free to communicate with the Judicial Council, through its secretary, by brief or otherwise.
Any party to the proceeding who chooses to file a brief must abide by Rule IV (D) of the Rules of Practice and Procedure, which requires that a copy of the brief be supplied to each of the other parties to the proceeding, and that the mailing or delivery of such copies must be certified to the Secretary of the Judicial Council.
Most cases come before the Judicial Council through a petition for declaratory decision (ï¿½ 2610 of the 2000 Book of Discipline). Because the issue frequently involves constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or a portion thereof or an act or legislation of a General Conference, a brief is especially important to assist in clarifying the issue and focus of the decision.
The Judicial Council also reviews episcopal rulings, appeals of episcopal rulings and the legality of actions taken by the General Conference and jurisdictional, central and annual conferences (ï¿½ 2609). The Judicial Council also handles appeals from church trials (ï¿½2715). During sessions of the General Conference, referrals are also made to the Judicial Council under ï¿½ 2609.
CONTENT of a brief should be determined by the origin of the matter, previous decisions concerning the same or similar issues, the point of view represented, and the judgment of the writer as to relevant and persuasive arguments.
DEADLINE for filing a brief is 60 days prior to the session at which the case is to be considered. Any person
On the following pages are suggestions for preparation of briefs under various circumstances.
I. Declaratory Decisions (ï¿½2610)
A petition for a declaratory decision often arises from doubts as to the constitutionality or legality of an action taken by the General Conference, a Jurisdictional, Central or Annual Conference, or some board or agency. It may also arise from the need for an interpretation of some portion of the Discipline, so that some group may know how to proceed in keeping with church law.
Such petitions must meet two conditions: (1) it must be a matter which affects the body filing the petition and (2) it must involve the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or some portion thereof, or some act of the General Conference.
When a member of some group offers a motion that the group initiate a petition for a declaratory decision, it is assumed that the member feels there has been some violation of the Constitution or Discipline or there is a need for interpretation of some part of the Constitution or Discipline as it relates to that group.
If the question raised is one of constitutionality or legality, the maker of the motion should prepare and submit a brief which says, in effect, ï¿½We believe the meaning of ï¿½ __________ is such that, when applied to this matter, it has the effect of making the action unconstitutional or illegal.ï¿½ The argument should be supported by the following:
- State the basis for the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council. Note that the Discipline gives the Judicial Council jurisdiction only under certain narrowly defined circumstances. Cite the paragraph numbers and circumstances thought to establish jurisdiction in the matter.
- State the relationship between the action, the Discipline, and the group petitioning for the decision.
- Identify the specific paragraph of the Constitution or Discipline thought to have been violated.
- Identify and discuss previous decisions of the Judicial Council bearing on the issue.
- State any other supporting arguments or information.
- Identify the relief requested.
If the petition is a request for information, a brief need not argue a point of view. It need only establish jurisdiction and the need of the petitioning body for that interpretation.
A person preparing a brief in opposition to the petition may argue that the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction or that the position of the petitioner is in error.
II. Bishop's Decision of Law
A. Appeal of Bishopï¿½s Decision of Law (ï¿½ 2609.7)
The maker of a motion to appeal a bishopï¿½s decision on a question of law should prepare and file a brief setting forth the reasons why the decision is thought to be in error, citing the Discipline, the decisions of the Judicial Council and other references where appropriate. Supporters of the appeal may participate in a joint brief or may file separate briefs if they prefer.
The bishop may prepare a brief in support of the decision, providing rationale and references in more detail. Others who support the decision and oppose the appeal may file a brief as well.
B. Review of Bishopï¿½s Decision of Law (ï¿½ 2609.6)
As in (A) above, the bishop may prepare a brief in support of the decision. Those in agreement and those in opposition may also file briefs. A brief should set forth the circumstances surrounding the decision, cite the relevant sections of the Discipline and decisions of the Judicial Council, and give supporting arguments.
III. Appeals from Church Trials (ï¿½ 2715)
It is expected that briefs will be filed by counsel for the church and counsel for the person charged, accompanied by transcripts of the trial and any previous appeals. Others may file briefs if they wish. Briefs should state clearly the facts relevant to the appeal and the church law on which the appeal is based.
IV. Others Matters
The above guidelines are generally applicable to all cases coming through any other channel. A brief should deal with jurisdiction, present the facts, clarify the issues, identify applicable church law and previous decisions, and point to a conclusion.
V. Delivery of briefs
All briefs are to be delivered to the Secretary of the Judicial Council 60 days prior to the Council session at which the matter will be heard. Interested parties should send 10 copies of each brief to the Secretary of the Judicial Council, signed by the party submitting the brief. An electronic copy of the brief in either Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect format is to be filed with the Secretary of the Judicial Council at firstname.lastname@example.org if possible.