Memorandum Number 1217
Request from a Respondent Regarding the Jurisdiction and Powers of the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals
On May 16, 2012, after three days of trial, a trial court found the Respondent in the trial guilty of some but not all charges under ¶ 2702.1 of the 2008 Discipline. It designated the penalty as termination of membership in the Annual Conference and revocation of his credentials of ordination. The trial court did not indicate that the effective date of the penalty would be delayed. In accordance with ¶ 2711.3 of the Discipline which states that "The penalty fixed by the trial court shall take effect immediately unless otherwise indicated by the trial court," the Respondent was no longer a member of the Annual Conference, was no longer ordained and was no longer entitled to any appointment or compensation as of the date of the trial court decision on May 16, 2012. On May 24, 2012, the Respondent, through his Counsel in the trial court proceedings, submitted a so-called "Emergency Appeal" to the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals (herein called the "WJCA").
The "Emergency Appeal" to the WJCA was not an appeal from the trial court's conviction of Respondent, as provided in ¶ 2716.2 of the Discipline. Nor was it an appeal to the WJCA of any ruling of the trial court or of the presiding officer of the trial court. It was not made pursuant to any provision of the Discipline. Rather, it was a request to the WJCA that it exercise some kind of "original" (rather than appellate) jurisdiction to order the California-Pacific Annual Conference compensate the Respondent, pending conclusion of an appeal by Respondent from the trial court's verdict and penalty.
The respondent, through his counsel, affirms that the suspension issued by the Bishop at the request of the Committee on Investigation on May 23, 2011, is still in effect "pending the outcome of the judicial process." (¶ 2704.2c) He argues that according to ¶ 2701, "The judicial process terminates at the end of any appeal or right of appeal." The Respondent claims that he is still under suspension and that the termination be held in abeyance pending the outcome of the appeal process. Thus he would be due equitable compensation during this time. The Respondent did not ask the trial court or the presiding officer of the trial court to rule on his request for compensation.
Nor did any other body or person rule on it. Instead the Respondent went directly to the WJCA with this request. The WJCA notified Respondent that it would not consider the matter, because it would be "called into session only after an appeal has been filed" under ¶ 2716 of the Discipline (an appeal from decision of a trial court). After the Western Jurisdiction elected a new Committee on Appeals at its Conference in July 2012, the Respondent re-submitted his "Emergency Appeal" to the newly elected WJCA. In response, the newly elected WJCA notified the Respondent that it would not act upon the "Emergency Appeal," but would act only on the appeal from the trial court's conviction and penalty under ¶ 2715.6 of the Discipline.
The Respondent asked the Judicial Council for a ruling that would ask the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals to hear this matter. The Judicial Council notes that once again the inconsistencies within the Discipline are made apparent. It is a long-standing principle that the Judicial Council will not enter into legislative relief. That prerogative falls to the actions of the General Conference. The Judicial Council is not an appropriate body to change Church law. The resolution in this case should be ushered through the legislative processes of the General Conference.
The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to decide this matter. Authority is not granted to it by the Constitution ¶ 56, nor is it within the authority of ¶ 2609 including ¶ 2609.8. Beth Capen was absent.
Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.