Title II. Different Grades and Kinds of Tribunals
Can. 1417 §1. By reason of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, any member of the faithful is free to bring or introduce his or her own contentious or penal case to the Holy See for adjudication in any grade of a trial and at any stage of the litigation.
§2. Recourse brought to the Apostolic See, however, does not suspend the exercise of jurisdiction by a judge who has already begun to adjudicate a case except in the case of an appeal. For this reason, the judge can prosecute a trial even to the definitive sentence unless the Apostolic See has informed the judge that it has called the case to itself.
Can. 1418 Any tribunal has the right to call upon the assistance of another tribunal to instruct a case or to communicate acts.
Chapter I. The Tribunal of First Instance
Art. 1. The Judge
Can. 1419 §1. In each diocese and for all cases not expressly excepted by law, the judge of first instance is the diocesan bishop, who can exercise judicial power personally or through others according to the following canons.
§2. If a case concerns the rights or temporal goods of a juridic person represented by the bishop, the appellate tribunal judges in first instance.
Can. 1420 §1. Each diocesan bishop is bound to appoint a judicial vicar, or officialis, with ordinary power to judge, distinct from the vicar general unless the small size of the diocese or the small number of cases suggests otherwise.
§2. The judicial vicar constitutes one tribunal with the bishop but cannot judge cases which the bishop reserves to himself.
§3. The judicial vicar can be given assistants who are called adjutant judicial vicars, or vice-officiales.
§4. Both the judicial vicar and adjutant judicial vicars must be priests, of unimpaired reputation, doctors or at least licensed in canon law, and not less than thirty years of age.
§5. When the see is vacant, they do not cease from their function and cannot be removed by the diocesan administrator; when the new bishop arrives, however, they need confirmation.
Can. 1421 §1. In a diocese, the bishop is to appoint diocesan judges, who are to be clerics.
§2. The conference of bishops can also permit the appointment of lay persons as judges; when it is necessary, one of them can be selected to form a college.
§3. Judges are to be of unimpaired reputation and doctors or at least licensed in canon law.
Can. 1422 The judicial vicar, adjutant judicial vicars, and other judges are appointed for a definite time, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1420, §5 and cannot be removed except for a legitimate and grave cause.
Can. 1423 §1. With the approval of the Apostolic See, several diocesan bishops can agree to establish a single tribunal of first instance for their dioceses in place of the diocesan tribunals mentioned in cann. 1419–1421. In this case, the group of bishops or a bishop they designate has all the powers which a diocesan bishop has over his own tribunal.
§2. The tribunals mentioned in §1 can be established either for any cases whatsoever or only for certain types of cases.
Can. 1424 In any trial, a single judge can employ two assessors who consult with him; they are to be clerics or lay persons of upright life.
Can. 1425 §1. With every contrary custom reprobated, the following cases are reserved to a collegiate tribunal of three judges:
1° contentious cases: a) concerning the bond of sacred ordination; b) concerning the bond of marriage, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 1686 and 1688;
2° penal cases: a) concerning delicts which can entail the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state; b) concerning the imposition or declaration of an excommunication.
§2. The bishop can entrust more difficult cases or those of greater importance to the judgment of three or five judges.
§3. Unless the bishop establishes otherwise in individual cases, the judicial vicar is to assign the judges in order by turn to adjudicate individual cases.
§4. If it happens that a collegiate tribunal cannot be established in the first instance of a trial, the conference of bishops can permit the bishop, for as long as the impossibility continues, to entrust cases to a single clerical judge who is to employ an assessor and auditor where possible.
§5. The judicial vicar is not to substitute judges once they have been assigned except for a most grave cause expressed in a decree.
Can. 1426 §1. A collegiate tribunal must proceed collegially and render its sentences by majority vote.
§2. The judicial vicar or an adjutant judicial vicar must preside over a collegiate tribunal insofar as possible.
Can. 1427 §1. If there is a controversy between religious or houses of the same clerical religious institute of pontifical right, the judge of first instance is the provincial superior unless the constitutions provide otherwise; if it is an autonomous monastery, the local abbot judges in first instance.
§2. Without prejudice to a different prescript of the constitutions, if a contentious matter arises between two provinces, the supreme moderator will judge in first instance either personally or through a delegate; if the controversy is between two monasteries, the abbot superior of the monastic congregation will judge in first instance.
§3. Finally, if the controversy arises between physical or juridic religious persons of different religious institutes or of the same clerical institute of diocesan right or of the same lay institute, or between a religious and a secular cleric or lay person or a non-religious juridic person, the diocesan tribunal judges in first instance.
Art. 2. Auditors and Relators
Can. 1428 §1. The judge or the president of a collegiate tribunal can designate an auditor, selected either from the judges of the tribunal or from persons the bishop approves for this function, to instruct the case.
§2. The bishop can approve for the function of auditor clerics or lay persons outstanding for their good character, prudence, and doctrine.
§3. It is for the auditor, according to the mandate of the judge, only to collect the proofs and hand those collected over to the judge. Unless the mandate of the judge prevents it, however, the auditor can in the meantime decide what proofs are to be collected and in what manner if a question may arise about this while the auditor exercises his or her function.
Can. 1429 The president of a collegiate tribunal must designate one of the judges of the college as the ponens or relator who is to report about the case at the meeting of the judges and put the sentence into writing. For a just cause the president can substitute another in place of the original relator.
Art. 3. The Promoter of Justice, The Defender of the Bond, and The Notary
Can. 1430 A promoter of justice is to be appointed in a diocese for contentious cases which can endanger the public good and for penal cases; the promoter of justice is bound by office to provide for the public good.
Can. 1431 §1. In contentious cases, it is for the diocesan bishop to judge whether or not the public good can be endangered unless the intervention of the promoter of justice is prescribed by law or is clearly necessary from the nature of the matter.
§2. If the promoter of justice has intervened in a previous instance, such intervention is presumed necessary in a further instance.
Can. 1432 A defender of the bond is to be appointed in a diocese for cases concerning the nullity of sacred ordination or the nullity or dissolution of a marriage; the defender of the bond is bound by office to propose and explain everything which reasonably can be brought forth against nullity or dissolution.
Can. 1433 If the promoter of justice or defender of the bond was not cited in cases which require their presence, the acts are invalid unless they actually took part even if not cited or, after they have inspected the acts, at least were able to fulfill their function before the sentence.
Can. 1434 Unless other provision is expressly made:
1° whenever the law requires the judge to hear either both or one of the parties, the promoter of justice and the defender of the bond must also be heard if they take part in the trial;
2° whenever the request of a party is required in order for the judge to be able to decide something, the request of the promoter of justice or defender of the bond who takes part in the trial has the same force.
Can. 1435 It is for the bishop to appoint the promoter of justice and defender of the bond; they are to be clerics or lay persons, of unimpaired reputation, doctors or licensed in canon law, and proven in prudence and zeal for justice.
Can. 1436 §1. The same person can hold the office of promoter of justice and defender of the bond but not in the same case.
§2. The promoter and the defender can be appointed for all cases or for individual cases; however, the bishop can remove them for a just cause.
Can. 1437 §1. A notary is to take part in any process, so much so that the acts are null if the notary has not signed them.
§2. Acts which notaries prepare warrant public trust.
Chapter II. The Tribunal of Second Instance
Can. 1438 Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1444, §1, n. 1:
1° from the tribunal of a suffragan bishop, appeal is made to the metropolitan tribunal, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1439;
2° in cases tried in first instance before the metropolitan, appeal is made to the tribunal which the metropolitan has designated in a stable manner with the approval of the Apostolic See;
3° for cases tried before a provincial superior, the tribunal of second instance is under the authority of the supreme moderator; for cases tried before the local abbot, the tribunal of second instance is under the authority of the abbot superior of the monastic congregation.
Can. 1439 §1. If a single tribunal of first instance has been established for several dioceses according to the norm of can. 1423, the conference of bishops must establish a tribunal of second instance with the approval of the Apostolic See unless the dioceses are all suffragan of the same archdiocese.
§2. With the approval of the Apostolic See, a conference of bishops can establish one or more tribunals of second instance in addition to the cases mentioned in §1.
§3. Over the tribunals of second instance mentioned in §§1–2, the conference of bishops or the bishop it designates has all the powers which a diocesan bishop has over his own tribunal.
Can. 1440 If competence by reason of grade according to the norm of cann. 1438 and 1439 is not observed, the incompetence of the judge is absolute.
Can. 1441 The tribunal of second instance must be established in the same way as the tribunal of first instance. Nevertheless, if a single judge rendered a sentence in the first instance of the trial according to can. 1425, §4, the tribunal of second instance is to proceed collegially.
Chapter III. The Tribunals of the Apostolic See
Can. 1442 The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge for the entire Catholic world; he renders judicial decisions personally, through the ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See, or through judges he has delegated.
Can. 1443 The Roman Rota is the ordinary tribunal established by the Roman Pontiff to receive appeals.
Can. 1444 §1. The Roman Rota judges:
1° in second instance, cases which have been adjudicated by the ordinary tribunals of first instance and brought before the Holy See through legitimate appeal;
2° in third or further instance, cases which the Roman Rota or any other tribunals have already adjudicated unless the matter is a res iudicata.
§2. This tribunal also judges in first instance the cases mentioned in can. 1405, §3 and others which the Roman Pontiff, either motu proprio or at the request of the parties, has called to his own tribunal and entrusted to the Roman Rota; unless the rescript entrusting the function provides otherwise, the Rota also judges these cases in second and further instance.
Can. 1445 §1. The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura adjudicates:
1° complaints of nullity, petitions for restitutio in integrum and other recourses against rotal sentences;
2° recourses in cases concerning the status of persons which the Roman Rota refused to admit to a new examination;
3° exceptions of suspicion and other cases against the auditors of the Roman Rota for acts done in the exercise of their function;
4° conflicts of competence mentioned in can. 1416.
§2. This tribunal deals with conflicts which have arisen from an act of ecclesiastical administrative power and are brought before it legitimately, with other administrative controversies which the Roman Pontiff or the dicasteries of the Roman Curia bring before it, and with a conflict of competence among these dicasteries.
§3. Furthermore it is for this supreme tribunal:
1° to watch over the correct administration of justice and discipline advocates or procurators if necessary;
2° to extend the competence of tribunals;
3° to promote and approve the erection of the tribunals mentioned in cann. 1423 and 1439.