Memorandum Number 1050


October 26, 2006

Request for a Declaratory Decision by the Minnesota Annual Conference Concerning the Constitutionality, Meaning, Application and Effect of ¶ 423.4 of the <i>2004 Book of Discipline</i> with Respect to the Ability of a Respondent to Review Relevant Documents in that Individual's Supervisory Record.

During the regular session of the 2006 Minnesota Annual Conference, two requests for a declaratory decision were made:

1. May Par. 423.4 be so construed as to exclude a respondent from reviewing relevant documents in her supervisory record?
2. Do the guidelines approved pursuant to Par. 423.4, preventing access to a supervisory file on the part of an ordained minister in whose name it is kept, deprive ordained ministers of rights given them by other portions of church law?

The Judicial Council has held that moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided by the Council. See Decision 189. The first question is hypothetical because there is no "respondent" who has been denied review of relevant documents concerning an actual complaint filed or pending. Indeed, the question posed did not even reference a specific case. The record is devoid of any facts that would allow us to assume jurisdiction.

The Council has likewise held when a request for a declaratory decision or a decision of law is made, said question must reference the specific paragraphs of the Book of Discipline that are in question. In the second question, the Council is asked to make a determination as to potential conflicts between ¶ 423.4 and "other portions of church law." The question is vague, because specific references to the Discipline must be cited instead of a general reference to "other portions of church law."


The Judicial Council lacks jurisdiction to render a declaratory decisions because the questions are moot and hypothetical, and the record is devoid of the requisite facts which would confer jurisdiction. 

Mary A. Daffin and Shamwange P. Kyungu were absent.

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