3.8-10. Complaints & Appeals

SECTION 8. Complaints

ARTICLE 150. A complaint is a written representation made for grievances other than those that necessitate an accusation and a judicial trial. Any member of the Church in good and regular standing shall have the right of complaint, provided that due notice is given to the party against whom complaint is made.

ARTICLE 151. If the constitutional requirements for the regularity of a complaint have been met, the judicatory to which the complaint has been made shall declare it in order; and all complaints shall be so disposed of by the judicatory to which they are made that a just, correct and intelligent conclusion may be reached.

ARTICLE 152. If the official act or decision of an officer of the Church is the ground of complaint, the complaint shall be brought before the judicatory in whose name or by whose authority he acted. The complaint shall be lodged by the complainant with the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the judicatory, a copy shall be served by the Stated Clerk or Secretary on the officer complained against at least ten days before the complaint is heard.

ARTICLE 153. If the official decision of a church judicatory is complained of, the complaint shall be brought before the next higher judicatory. Immediate notice of complaint shall be given, and shall be recorded by the Stated Clerk or Secretary, and the President shall at once appoint a committee to defend the action of the judicatory before the next higher tribunal. The complaint and of the reasons for it must be filed by the complainant with the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the body complained of within thirty days after the final adjournment of the body. If reasons of complaint shall have been filed with the Stated Clerk or Secretary within the prescribed time, he shall at once inform the chairman of the committee appointed to defend the judicatory, and furnish him with a copy of the complaint and the reasons for it. Notice of complaint, together with the complaint and the reasons for it, filed with the Stated Clerk or Secretary shall be certified by him to the next higher tribunal, before which at its next session such complaint shall be heard.

ARTICLE 154. Neither the complainant, nor the persons complained of, nor the members of the judicatory complained of shall vote in the case in any of the judicatories of the Church.

ARTICLE 155. Either of the parties to a complaint may complain to the next higher judicatory.

ARTICLE 156. The judicatory against which a complaint is made shall forward its records to the higher judicatory, together with all papers relating to the matter of the complaint.

ARTICLE 157. The same method of procedure in the hearing of a complaint shall prevail as in the case of an appeal, as provided in Articles 168 and 169 of this Constitution.

ARTICLE 158. The effect of a complaint, if sustained, may be the reversal in whole or in part of the action or decision complained of. When a complaint is sustained, the lower judicatory shall be directed how to dispose of the matter.

ARTICLE 159. Whenever a complaint is entered against a decision of a judicatory by at least one-third of the members recorded as present when the decision was made, the execution of the decision shall be stayed until the final issue of the case in a higher judicatory.

SECTION 9. Appeals

ARTICLE 160. An appeal is the removal of a judicial case by a written representation from a lower to a higher judicatory, and may be taken by either of the original parties from the judgment of the lower judicatory.

ARTICLE 161. If an appeal is taken from the decision of a judicatory in a judicial case, the judicatory that rendered the decision shall defend its position in the higher judicatory by and through such representatives as it may deem proper to appoint; said representatives, however, shall be ministers or elders, or both, of the Reformed Church in the United States.

ARTICLE 162. Irregularities in the proceedings; refusal to entertain an appeal, refusal of reasonable indulgence to a party on trial; receiving improper, or declining to receive important testimony; undue haste; manifestation of prejudice in the conduct of a case; mistake or injustice in the decision or in any of the rulings of the judicatory in the matters appertaining to the case; undue severity of sentence — are good and sufficient reasons for an appeal.

ARTICLE 163. Written notice of appeal, with a copy of specifications or errors alleged, shall be given, within thirty days after the adjournment of the judicatory, to the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the judicatory appealed from, and in the case of his absence or disability or death, to the President of it, who shall file it, with the records and all papers appertaining to the case, or a certified copy of them, with the Stated Clerk of the higher judicatory, on or before the second day of its next regular meeting after the day of reception of said notice, and shall furnish the chairman of the committee appointed to defend the judicatory with a copy of the specifications of errors alleged.

ARTICLE 164. The appellant shall appear, in person or by counsel, before the judicatory appealed to, at or before the close of the second day’s session of its next stated meeting after the date of filing of the notice of appeal, prepared to proceed with the appeal. If the appellant does not appear before the judicatory appealed to, and fails to show, to the satisfaction of the judicatory, that said appellant was unavoidably prevented from so doing, the appeal shall be considered abandoned, and the judgment of the lower judicatory shall stand. The judicatory appealed to shall proceed to hear an appeal whether the judicatory appealed from appears or not, unless it is shown that notice of appeal was not properly served on the judicatory appealed from.

ARTICLE 165. All cases of appeal of which the records and papers, or certified copies of them, have been placed in the hands of the Stated Clerk of the judicatory appealed to, shall be called up by him as soon as possible after the permanent organization of the judicatory; he shall state the names of the original parties, read the accusation and decision and sentence, state the name of the judicatory appealed from and the names of the appellants, and read the reasons filed for the appeal.

ARTICLE 166. In case the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the lower judicatory has failed to file the records of an appeal as provided in Article 163, he shall be referred to his judicatory to be dealt with as the case may require; and the appellant or the judicatory appealed from may furnish a copy of said records, and, provided both shall agree as to its correctness, the same shall be taken as if it had been filed by the Stated Clerk or Secretary.

ARTICLE 167. Testimony that has not been brought before the lower judicatory shall not be admitted in the higher, except by consent of both parties. If new evidence arises which is likely to alter the aspect of the case materially, the case must be sent back to the lower judicatory for a new investigation.

ARTICLE 168. After an appeal shall have been called up and stated by the clerk, the presiding officer shall appoint a committee whose duty it shall be to take charge of all the records and papers in the case, examine the same thoroughly, and report on them:

1. Whether or not the appeal is regular and ready for hearing.

2. Propose to the judicatory the day and hour the appeal shall be heard.

3. The time to be granted to each party to present the case.

ARTICLE 169. When the time appointed for the hearing of an appeal arrives, it shall have precedence over all other business and shall be heard as follows:

1. The papers and records in the case shall be read in proper order, except such parts as may be omitted by consent.

2. The parties shall be heard, the appellant opening and closing.

3. Opportunity shall be given to the members of the judicatory appealed from to be heard.

4. Opportunity shall be given to the members of the higher judicatory to be heard.

5. The vote shall then be taken, without further debate, separately on each specification, the question being put in the form: Shall the specification be sustained? The specification having been read by the clerk and the question put by the President, the roll shall be called and the vote be taken. If not one of the specifications shall be sustained and no error be found, the judgment of the lower judicatory shall stand. If an error or errors shall be found, the judicatory appealed to shall determine whether the judgment of the lower judicatory shall be reversed or modified; or the case remanded for a new trial; and the decision, accompanied with a recital of the error or errors found, shall be entered on the record. If the judicatory deems it wise, a definition of its action may be adopted, which shall be a part of the record of the case.

ARTICLE 170. Neither the appellant nor the members of the judicatory appealed from shall vote in the case in any judicatories of the Church.

ARTICLE 171. The necessary effect of an appeal is to stay all further proceedings in the case of admonition, of censure, or of erasure of name; but in the case of suspension, or of deposition, or of excommunication the judgment shall remain in force until finally reversed.

ARTICLE 172. The decisions of the last judicatory to which an appeal has been taken shall be valid and binding.

SECTION 10. Judicial Committee

Refer to Article 100.

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