Judicial Council Decisions

Decision No. 1202

In Re: A Request for a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference as to Whether or Not in Light of ¶¶ 369, 605 and 635, the Bishop Has the Authority Under ¶ 403 to Inform a Clergy Member of Unappointability

DIGEST OF CASE

The question of law presented to the Bishop during the 2011 clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference is a question which involves procedural or substantive matters relating to actions in a judicial or administrative process. It is not a proper question to be addressed in a substantive ruling by a bishop. The Bishop’s decision is hereby reversed and vacated.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On May 26, 2011, during the clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, a clergy member properly placed a written request for a Decision of Law related to a question regarding the role of the bishop in determining the appointability of the clergy member under complaint. A letter was sent by the bishop to an incarcerated clergy member on involuntary leave of absence indicating that the clergy member was not appointable “now or in the future.” At the time the letter was written on March 30, 2011, no referral of the initial complaint as a judicial complaint had been made. At the time of the request for a decision of law during the annual conference session, the complaint had been referred on April 15, 2011, to the committee on investigation as a judicial complaint. The presiding Bishop ruled on the question presented rather than ruling that the question of law was improper.

Jurisdiction


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction pursuant to ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

The Guidelines for Bishop’s Rulings on Questions of Law in Decision 799 state:
…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 (¶ 18) and the 1996 Discipline (¶¶ 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.…
See also Decision 1166.

Questions as to fair process, judicial process, and administrative process must be addressed in the appropriate manner and through the specific bodies set forth in the Discipline. In no event may an individual bring those delineated issues to the Judicial Council as a review of a Bishop’s ruling on a question of law. To do so circumvents the process set forth in the Discipline and also violates the principle of the separation and balance of powers.

DECISION

The question of law presented to the Bishop during the 2011 clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference is a question which involves procedural or substantive matters relating to actions in a judicial or administrative process. It is not a proper question to be addressed in a substantive ruling by a bishop. The Bishop’s decision is hereby reversed and vacated.

Friday, October 28, 2011.


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