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Decision No. 595

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May 02 1988
In Re: Appeal Process As Described in Par. 2625 of the 1984 Discipline.

Digest of Case

Par. 2625.3 was properly amended and correctly printed in the 1984 Discipline. Local pastors, diaconal ministers and ministerial members of all conferences must be provided with the right to appeal. The Church does not have the right to initiate an appeal but it does have the right to respond, to submit briefs, and to argue at every level, once the appeal process has been initiated. The Judicial Council has authority to determine factual matters which are essential to decide the legal questions involved.

Statement of Facts

On May 2, 1988, the General Conference adopted Calendar No. 310 which requested a declaratory decision as to whether the 1984 proposed amendments to 2625.3 were adopted and presented four additional issues as to the meaning of 2625 as it relates to an appeal for local pastors and diaconal ministers; the applicability of the appellate process to ministerial members of a provisional conference; the right of appeal or cross-appeal by the church and to determine the limits of the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council as contained in 2625.1(g). JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1984 Discipline. ANALYSIS I The Judicial Council is requested to determine whether the amendment to 2625.3 of the 1980 Discipline was adopted by the 1984 General Conference. The proposed amendment language, to insert "only" after Council in the 2625.3 of the 1980 Discipline and to add after the word "law" "related to procedures of the Judicial Court of Appeals, or under the provision of 2614," was printed in the 1984 General Conference Advance Daily Christian Advocate, pages F-148-149. In presenting the matter to the General Conference for consideration, the presenter referred to Calendar Item 1312 and to the correct page in the Advance DCA. Adoption of the report, which included the specified material printed in the Advance DCA, was recorded on Page 798 of the DCA. We find no requirement in the 1980 Discipline nor in the 1984 Plan of Organization and Rules of Order of the General Conference that the verbatim text of proposed legislation which was already printed in the 1984 Advance DCA be printed again in its entirety in the DCA. II The next issue raised is whether the trial of a local pastor or diaconal minister may be appealed to a jurisdictional or central conference committee or Court of Appeals. Par. 18 of the Constitution is quite clear in prohibiting the abolition or elimination of this right to an appeal. The right extends not only to the ministerial members but to all members of our denomination. Par. 2625.3 does not seek to abolish that right but implements by adding an additional safeguard, the inclusion of representatives on the Appellate Court from each of the affected peer groups or classes. III The Judicial Council is asked whether ministerial members of conferences other than Annual Conferences are included in the provision which provides the right of an appeal. As stated above, 18 of the Constitution guarantees the right of appeal to all. Par. 29.7 of the Constitution authorizes the Central Conferences to appoint a Committee on Appeals. In addition, 638.17 requires that a Central Conference adopt rules to ensure "that the rights of appeal shall be adequately safeguarded." Although 2625.3 mentions only annual conferences within the jurisdiction it must be understood as providing that right to all who are guaranteed it by the Constitution. IV Does the Church have a right to an appeal or cross-appeal to any level of the appellate process? The Discipline appears to be silent concerning cross-appeals but it does provide for representation by the Church in the appellate process. However, this right applies only after the appellant, accused, has noted an appeal. After the appeal is noted, the Church must receive notice to that effect-2625.1(a)-and the Church is entitled to present a brief as well as oral argument at the appellate level. Par. 2625.1(g). The same principle applies to appeals before the Judicial Council and the Judicial Council is further empowered to adopt its own rules to implement that right. If a Court of Appeals has reduced a penalty which was imposed by the trial court, the Church could not argue for a reversal or remand unless the appellant had pursued this additional appellate remedy. In those cases that are properly before the appellate courts, counsel for the Church could argue that the original penalty should stand or be reinstated and that the errors of law be corrected on remand to the proper court. The Church does not have the right to pursue an appeal when the accused is acquitted of the charges nor could the penalty affixed by the trial court be made more severe on appeal. V Par. 2625.3 does not limit jurisdiction of the Judicial Council to matters of law only. Determination of the weight of the evidence is within its purview. The Judicial Council has decided numerous cases which required factual examination of evidence in order to render a decision. See Decision No. 563.

Decision

I The amendment to 2625.3 in question was properly adopted by the 1984 General Conference and is correctly printed in the 1984 Discipline. II Par. 18 of the Constitution guarantees the right of appeal to all members of the Church. Local pastors and diaconal ministers must be included in the appeal process. III Par. 29.7 of the Constitution requires the establishment of a committee on appeals in the Central Conference and 638.17 mandates that the Central Conferences implement the guarantee of the right of appeal. Ministerial members in all conferences must be provided with the right to appeal. IV The Church does not have the right to initiate an appeal but it does have the right to respond, to submit briefs and to argue at every level of the appellate process after an appeal is noted by the appellant, accused. V The Judicial Council has authority to determine factual matters which are essential to decide the legal question involved.

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