Section II. Investigations, Trials, and Appeals
Fair Process in Judicial Proceedings
¶ 2701. The judicial process shall have as its purpose a just resolution of judicial complaints, in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the body of Jesus Christ. The following procedures are presented for the protection of the rights of individuals guaranteed under Section III, Article IV, of our Constitution and for the protection of the Church. The presumption of innocence shall be maintained until the conclusion of the trial process. The judicial proceedings and the rights set forth in this paragraph commence upon referral of a matter as a judicial complaint from counsel for the Church to the committee on investigation. The judicial process terminates at the end of any appeal or right of appeal. Special attention should be given to ensuring racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of boards, committees, and courts and the timely disposition of all matters.12
A Just Resolution in Judicial Proceedings - Processes that seek a just resolution are encouraged at any time, including through the judicial proceedings. If a process seeking a just resolution is used, the appropriate persons, including the counsel for the Church and the counsel for the respondent, should enter into a written agreement outlining such process, including any agreement on confidentiality. If resolution is achieved, a written statement of resolution, including terms and conditions, shall be signed by all participants. The parties shall agree on any matters to be disclosed to third parties. See ¶ 362.1(b) for discussion of just resolution.
If the resolution results in a change of ministerial status, the disclosure agreement shall not prevent the disciplinary disclosures required for possible readmission.
1. The Right to Be Heard-In any judicial proceeding, (a) the respondent (the person to whom the procedure is being applied) and the Church shall have a right to be heard before any final action is taken, and (b) the complainant and the respondent have the right to be present.
2. Notice of Judicial Process Hearings-Notice of any judicial process hearing shall advise the respondent of the reason for the proposed procedures, with sufficient detail to allow the respondent to prepare a response. Notice shall be given not less than twenty days prior to the hearing.
3. Right to Be Accompanied-The respondent shall have a right to be accompanied by a clergyperson in full connection to any judicial process hearing to which he or she is subject, in accordance with the appropriate disciplinary provisions (see ¶ 2706.2). The clergyperson accompanying the respondent shall have the right of advocacy.
4. Communications-In any judicial proceeding, under no circumstances shall one party or counsel, in the absence of the other party or counsel, discuss substantive matters with members of the pending hearing, trial, or appellate body while the case is pending. Questions of procedure may be raised with the presiding officer or secretary of the hearing or appellate body.
5. Double Jeopardy-No bill of charges shall be certified by
any committee on investigation after an earlier bill of charges has been certified by a committee on investigation based on the same alleged occurrences.
6. Access to Records-The respondent and the Church shall have access to all records relied upon in the determination of the outcome of the committee on investigation, trial court, or appeal committee or body.13
7. Failure to Appear or Respond-In the event that a clergyperson fails to appear for supervisory interviews, refuses mail, refuses to communicate personally with the bishop or district superintendent, or otherwise fails to respond to supervisory requests or requests from official administrative or judicial committees, such actions or inactions shall not be used as an excuse to avoid or delay any Church processes, and such processes may continue without the participation of such individual.
8. Healing-As a part of the judicial process, the bishop and cabinet, in consultation with the presiding officer of the pending hearing, trial, or appellate body then sitting, shall provide for healing if there has been significant disruption to the congregation, the annual conference, or the context of ministry by the judicial matter. This may include a just resolution process for unresolved conflicts, support for victims, and reconciliation for all who are involved. This process may also include the sharing of information by the bishop or a cabinet member about the nature of the complaint without disclosing alleged facts underlying the complaint that might compromise the judicial process.
9. Immunity of Participants-In order to preserve the integrity of the Church’s judicial process and ensure full participation in it at all times, the resident bishop, the cabinet, the presiding officer of the trial, trial officers, trial court, witnesses, counsels, assistant counsels, advocates, complainant, committee on investigation and all others who participate in the Church’s judicial process shall have immunity from prosecution of complaints brought against them related to their role in a particular judicial process, unless they have committed a chargeable offense in conscious and knowing bad faith. The complainant in any proceeding against any such person related to their role in a particular judicial process shall have the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that such person’s actions constituted a chargeable offense committed knowingly in bad faith. The immunity set forth in this provision shall extend to civil court proceedings, to the fullest extent permissible by the civil laws.
12. See Judicial Council Decision 695.
13. See Judicial Council Decisions 691, 765.