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Memorandum No. 996

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October 28 2004
In Re: IN RE: Request from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Authority of a Bishop to Overrule the Judicial Council and Deny an Individual’s Request for Jury Trial.

Statement of Facts

At the 2004 session of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, a clergy member moved that the Annual Conference request a declaratory decision of the Judicial Council on the following questions: “Does a Bishop have authority to overrule a decision of the Judicial Council? Specifically, if the Judicial Council rules that a particular individual has a right to a trial, and that individual requests a trial, does a Bishop have authority to deny said request for a trial?” The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline. The Judicial Council has authority “to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof. . . .” ¶ 2610 of the Discipline. The request for declaratory decision lacks the essential and necessary allegations, fails to state facts, and fails to cite any germane disciplinary provision. The Judicial Council is without jurisdiction. The Judicial Council has received a number of annual conference requests for declaratory decisions. There is a long line of decisions concerning this Council’s jurisdiction over requests for declaratory decisions and the restraint that the Council must exercise in keeping with the Discipline. “The Judicial Council will not render decisions that are merely advisory or that decide abstract or uncertain questions based upon hypothetical facts.” Decision 193. “The questions propounded are abstract and based upon assumptions of fact which are ambiguous and uncertain. . . . [T]here are no allegations of fact upon which to base a decision.” Decision 212. Similarly, in explaining hypothetical questions, the Judicial Council has stated, “[T]he questions are abstract, and there is nothing in their content to relate them to the business of the Annual Conference. They are, therefore, hypothetical.” Decision 746. Furthermore, “our long established policy is to construe our jurisdiction strictly and with restraint.” Decision 535, citing Decision 255. Most recently, the Council stated: “The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction in the matter as the purported request for a declaratory decision does not seek a determination of the meaning, application or effect of any specific paragraph of the 2000 Discipline which is a requirement for request of a declaratory decision under ¶ 2610 of the Discipline” (Decision 945). See also Decisions 750, 762, and 810. The motion here makes no reference to the portion of the Discipline that was at issue nor does the motion reference a specific case, a specific person, nor any specific facts. As such the motion is hypothetical and the Council is without jurisdiction. DIGEST The request for a declaratory decision lacks the essential and necessary allegations, fails to state facts, and fails to cite any germane disciplinary provision. The Judicial Council is without jurisdiction.

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