Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Observations Communicated to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 1999.
The following is a summary of points communicated to Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, from the Roman Rota. They concern cases submitted for judgment by the Rota from American Tribunals. These observations were shared with the American bishops and were first published RRAO 2000 with Bishop Fiorenza’s authorization.
1. The Rota is still receiving photocopies of hand-written acts, which often prove difficult to read. It is requested that all tribunals conform to the practice of submitting clear copies of typed text with an index of all the acts.
2. The Rota frequently receives complaints from Respondents who must bear the burden of paying the $850 contribution to the Rota which accompanies a case when it is submitted. This is very common in cases where the Respondent is lodging an appeal to the Rota. The stipend, however, does not cover the expenses associated with processing the case.
3. The Rota frequently receives transcriptions of un-redacted, verbatim responses of the parties and witnesses. These responses often include incomplete sentences (lacking verbs or nouns) which are difficult for non-native English speakers or readers to understand, and hinder the ability to grasp the sense of the responses.
4. The Rota has become aware that some tribunals base their judgement of a case solely on the basis of questionnaires sent to the principal parties and witnesses, that is, without a judicial interrogations. This has, at times, caused the first instance tribunal to render a decision in the negative on the basis of insufficient proof, a decision which is overturned by a second instance court when proofs have been appropriately collected.
5. The Rota is concerned that tribunals are not retaining records, viz., the acts and especially the sentences, of cases for an appropriate length of time. It is requested that tribunals conform to the following practice: (1) original copies can be destroyed only after ten years from the conclusion of the case; (2) the original Sentence and Decrees of Confirmation must always be preserved; and (3) microfilms are to be produced with the use of every technical care so that the acts can be reproduced whenever necessary.
6. The Rota has become aware of some irregular practices in some appellate courts which are a cause of concern to them. They are as follows:
1. The prescriptions of canon 1609 are not being followed, e.g., the judges of the appellate courts do not convene to render a decision, rather their vota are collected by a secretary and forwarded to the court of first instance.
2. Sentences are being issued from second instance courts which have not followed judicial process, that is, requirements such as citations and decrees have not been issued.
3. Nonconforming sentences have been forwarded to metropolitan tribunals for third instance review when the law requires that those cases be forwarded to the Rota as third instance court.
RRAO (2000): 36-37.