¶ 2708. General Organization and Pre-Trial Procedures
1. Officers of the Court-Officers shall consist of a presiding officer (see ¶¶ 2712.2, 2713.2, 2714.2), who shall appoint a secretary and such other officers as deemed necessary. The presiding officer may have legal counsel, who shall not be the conference chancellor, at the expense of the annual conference holding the trial, for the sole purpose of advice to the presiding officer during the trial.
2. Time and Place of Trial-The official charged with convening the trial shall also fix the time and place for the trial and will notify the presiding officer, the respondent, counsel for the Church and the person making the original complaint. In all cases, sufficient time shall be allowed for these persons to appear at the given place and time and for the respondent to prepare for the trial. The presiding officer shall decide what constitutes “sufficient time,” but in no case shall this time be less than twenty days.
3. Pre-Trial Motions and Referrals-All appeals of any procedural or substantive matters that have occurred prior to referral of the charges to trial must be appealed to the presiding officer of the trial court before the convening of the trial. Otherwise, the right to appeal on such matters is forfeited. All objections to and motions regarding the regularity of the proceedings and the form and substance of charges and specifications must be made before the convening of the trial court. The presiding officer may determine all such preliminary objections and motions; in furtherance of truth and justice may permit amendments to the specifications or charges not changing the general nature of the same; and may dismiss all or any part of the bill of charges upon a finding by the presiding officer (1) that all or such part is without legal or factual basis or (2) that, even assuming the specifications to be true, they do not constitute a basis for a chargeable offense. The presiding officer may refer the matter as deemed appropriate for a process seeking a just resolution to the resident bishop upon consultation with the counsel for the Church and counsel for the respondent. The bishop shall institute such a process and may use the assistance of a trained, impartial third party facilitator(s) or mediator(s). Such referral will not constitute a dismissal or double jeopardy under ¶ 2701.5. If a process seeking a just resolution is used, the appropriate persons, including the counsel for the Church and 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, affirming such resolution, and any terms and condition, shall be signed by the parties and the parties on all matters to be disclosed to third parties. Such a written statement shall be given to the presiding officer and the presiding officer shall take action consistent with the agreement. If no resolution results, the matter is returned to the presiding officer for further action.
4. Change of Venue-The respondent may request a change of venue. This shall be a written request to the presiding officer of the court within ten days of receipt of notice to appear for trial. The presiding officer shall rule upon the request after hearing arguments by the respondent and the Church. If the motion is approved, the presiding officer shall name the annual conference outside the episcopal area wherein the trial shall be held and shall notify the resident bishop of that conference, who shall convene the court. The cost of prosecution shall be borne by the conference where the case originated.
a) All notices required or provided for in relationship to investigations, trials, and appeals shall be in writing, signed by or on behalf of the person or body giving or required to give such notice, and shall be addressed to the person or body to whom it is required to be given. Such notices shall be served by delivering a copy thereof to the party or chief officer of the body to whom it is addressed in person or sent by other delivery system to the last-known residence or address of such party. Proof of notice shall be provided and becomes a part of the record of the case.
b) In all cases wherein it is provided that notice shall be given to a bishop or district superintendent and the charges are against that particular person, then such notice (in addition to being given to the accused) shall be given, in the case of a bishop, to another bishop within the same jurisdiction and, in the case of a district superintendent, to the bishop in charge.
6. Trial Scheduling and Continuances-If in any case the respondent, after due notice (twenty days) has been given, shall refuse or neglect to appear at the time and place set forth for the hearing, the trial may proceed in the respondent’s absence. However, if in the sole discretion of the presiding officer there is good and sufficient reason for the absence of the respondent or another essential person, the presiding officer may reschedule the trial to a later date.
7. Counsel-In all cases, a respondent shall be entitled to appear and to select and be represented by counsel, a clergyperson in full connection of The United Methodist Church if the respondent is a bishop, a clergyperson, or a diaconal minister; and a lay or clergy member of The United Methodist Church if the respondent is a lay member. The respondent and the Church shall be entitled to have counsel heard in oral or written argument or both. The official charged with convening the court (see ¶¶ 2712.1, 2713.1, 2714.1) shall, within thirty days after receiving a copy of the charges and specifications, appoint counsel for the Church, if counsel has not been previously appointed. In the case of a trial of a bishop, clergyperson, or local pastor, counsel for the Church shall be a clergyperson in full connection (¶¶ 2704.2a, 2712.4) to represent the interests of the Church in pressing the claims of the person making the complaint.
No person who was a member of the cabinet, board of ordained ministry, or committee on investigation who earlier considered the case now before the trial court shall be appointed counsel for the Church or serve as counsel for the respondent or any of the persons bringing complaints in a case. In all cases of trial where counsel has not been chosen by the respondent, counsel shall be appointed by the presiding officer. The counsel for the Church and for the respondent each shall be entitled to choose one assistant counsel, who may be an attorney, without voice. “Without voice” means without the ability to speak to or within the hearing of the trial court.
8. Witnesses-Notice to appear shall be given to such witnesses as either party may name and shall be issued in the name of the Church and be signed by the presiding officer of the trial. It shall be the duty of all clergy and lay members of The United Methodist Church to appear and testify when summoned. Refusal to appear or to answer questions ruled by the presiding officer to be relevant may be considered as disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church except when refusal to answer is based on a good faith claim that answering might tend to incriminate the witness under state or federal criminal law or is based on a claim of confidential communication to a clergyperson under ¶ 341.5.
9. Witness Qualifications-A witness, to be qualified, need not be a member of The United Methodist Church.
10. Commissioned Out-of-Court Testimony-The presiding officer of any court before which a case may be pending shall have power, whenever the necessity of the parties or witnesses shall require, to appoint, on the application of either party, a commissioner or commissioners, either a clergy or a layperson or both, to examine the witnesses; provided that three days’ notice of the time and place of taking such testimony shall have been given to the adverse party. The party making this request shall have the burden of showing good cause and shall bear the cost of such commissioned out-of-court testimony. Counsel for both parties shall be permitted to examine and cross-examine the witness or witnesses whose testimony is thus taken. The commissioners so appointed shall take such testimony in writing as may be offered by either party. The testimony properly certified by the signature of the commissioner or commissioners shall be transmitted to the presiding officer of the court before which the case is pending.
11. Amendments to Bill of Charges and Specifications-After consultation with counsels, the presiding officer of the trial may make amendments to the bill of charges, or request that the committee on investigation make amendments to the bill of charges; provided that they do not change the nature of the charges and specifications and do not introduce new matter of which the respondent has not had due notice. When an amendment or amendments to a bill of charges is or are denied by the presiding officer, it or they shall not be introduced in the form of testimony in the trial. Charges or specifications previously considered and dropped by the committee on investigation shall not be introduced in the trial in the form of evidence or otherwise.
12. Open or Closed Trials-The deliberations of the trial court shall be closed. All other sessions of the trial shall be closed, except upon written request to the presiding officer by counsel for the respondent, the trial shall be open. Also, the trial may be opened by the presiding officer, upon written request of either the counsel for the Church or the counsel for the person charged, to family of the person charged, or family of the person making the original complaint, and/or to other personally significant people. Any motions to open the trial should be presented and decided prior to the date of the trial. In addition, the presiding officer may, in his or her judgment on motion of counsel for either party or on the presiding officer’s own motion, declare a particular session of the court to be closed. At all times, however, in the hearing portion of the trial, the presiding officer, the members of the trial court, the person(s) making the original complaint, the person representing the Church as well as counsel for the Church, the respondent, and counsel for the respondent shall have a right to be present.
13. Combined Trials of Multiple Persons-In cases in which a number of persons have allegedly engaged in the same offense at the same time and place, their trials may be combined into one trial for that same offense. The presiding officer shall make the determination on combination of trials.