Removal of Nonjudicial Causes from a Lower to a Higher Court
- Nonjudicial decisions of all church courts under the General Synod are subject to the review of the next higher court, and may be removed thereto in one of the following ways, namely: (1) General Review or (2) Complaint. When a matter is so removed, the lower court shall become a party, and its members shall not be entitled to deliberate and vote in the higher court.
- The record of every court, except the General Synod, shall be reviewed by the next higher court, at least once a year, and may be called for at any time. If the lower court fail to send up its record, the higher court may order it to be produced immediately, or on a day named.
- The higher court, after inquiring into: ( 1 ) the regularity of the proceedings minuted, (2) the correctness of the record, shall order the record to be attested, if necessary cum nota. In connection with such a review the higher court may give special instruction or admonition to the lower, and may order any part of the record that is irregular to be cancelled or deleted; but a judicial sentence may not be reversed.
- Notwithstanding attestation of the record, if, after such review, it comes to the knowledge of the higher court that a lower court neglects its duty, or has committed grave irregularities, it may take such cognizance thereof as is deemed necessary.
- A member of a lower court may complain to the higher court. Notice of such complaint must be given to the clerk of the court within ten days. The complaint itself must be lodged with the clerk of the higher court within thirty days after the notice is given.
- The court may prepare answers to reasons of complaint, and appoint some of its members to defend its action before the higher court.
- The complainant, having obtained certified extracts of minutes and relative documents as craved, shall bring the cause before the higher court. If, when the case is called, he does not appear, or fails to assign a sufficient reason for his absence, the complaint or appeal shall be held as fallen from.
- In cases of sickness, unavoidable detention, or inability to be present from other good cause, the complainant may be excused from appearing in person and be permitted to plead by written communication and deputy.
- A complaint shall bring up all parties concerned, who must be duly cited by the clerk of the lower court.
- The effect of a complaint shall be, if signed by one-third or more of the members present when the vote was taken, to arrest execution of the judgment pronounced until the matter be reviewed by the higher court.
- The higher court, after ascertaining that a complaint has been regularly made, and that all parties have been duly notified, shall call the parties to the bar and the whole of the record of the lower court is read. The parties shall then be heard, the complainant having the right of reply. Questions may then be put by the court relative to any matter affecting the cause in hand after which parties shall be removed from the bar, and the court shall proceed to deliberate.
- When a decision or judgment is reached, parties shall be recalled and the decision or judgment of the court shall be announced to them.
- If a complaint or appeal is dismissed, the decision of the lower court stands affirmed. If it be sustained, the decision is not necessarily reversed but may be altered in part or in whole, and the matter may be remitted to the lower court with instructions. Or the higher court may, if circumstances appear to require it, waive altogether the merits of the complaint or appeal, and give such a decision in the original cause as is consistent with truth and justice.