Title III. The Discipline To Be Observed in Tribunals


Chapter I. The Duty of Judges and Ministers of the Tribunal

Can. 1446 §1. All the Christian faithful, and especially bishops, are to strive diligently to avoid litigation among the people of God as much as possible, without prejudice to justice, and to resolve litigation peacefully as soon as possible.

§2. Whenever the judge perceives some hope of a favorable outcome at the start of litigation or even at any other time, the judge is not to neglect to encourage and assist the parties to collaborate in seeking an equitable solution to the controversy and to indicate to them suitable means to this end, even by using reputable persons for mediation.

§3. If the litigation concerns the private good of the parties, the judge is to discern whether the controversy can be concluded advantageously by an agreement or the judgment of arbitrators according to the norm of cann. 1713–1716.

Can. 1447 A person who has taken part in a case as a judge, promoter of justice, defender of the bond, procurator, advocate, witness, or expert cannot later in another instance validly decide the same case as judge or perform the function of assessor.

Can. 1448 §1. A judge is not to undertake the adjudication of a case in which the judge is involved by reason of consanguinity or affinity in any degree of the direct line and up to the fourth degree of the collateral line or by reason of trusteeship, guardianship, close acquaintance, great animosity, the making of a profit, or the avoidance of a loss.

§2. In these circumstances the promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, the assessor, and the auditor must abstain from their office.

Can. 1449 §1. If in the cases mentioned in can. 1448 the judge does not withdraw, a party can lodge an objection against the judge.

§2. The judicial vicar deals with the objection; if the objection is lodged against him, the bishop who presides over the tribunal deals with it.

§3. If the bishop is the judge and the objection is lodged against him, he is to abstain from judging.

§4. If the objection is lodged against the promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, or other officials of the tribunal, the president in a collegiate tribunal or the single judge deals with this exception.

Can. 1450 If the objection is accepted, the persons must be changed but not the grade of the trial.

Can. 1451 §1. The question of an objection must be decided as promptly as possible (expeditissime) after the parties have been heard as well as the promoter of justice or defender of the bond, if they take part in the trial and are not the ones against whom the objection has been lodged.

§2. Acts placed by a judge before an objection is lodged are valid; nevertheless, those acts placed after the objection has been lodged must be rescinded if a party requests it within ten days from the acceptance of the objection.

Can. 1452 §1. In a matter which concerns private persons alone, a judge can proceed only at the request of a party. Once a case has been legitimately introduced, however, the judge can and must proceed even ex officio in penal cases and other cases which regard the public good of the Church or the salvation of souls.

§2. Furthermore, the judge can supply for the negligence of the parties in furnishing proofs or in lodging exceptions whenever the judge considers it necessary in order to avoid a gravely unjust judgment, without prejudice to the prescripts of can. 1600.

Can. 1453 Without prejudice to justice, judges and tribunals are to take care that all cases are completed as soon as possible and that in a tribunal of first instance they are not prolonged beyond a year and in a tribunal of second instance beyond six months.

Can. 1454 All who constitute a tribunal or assist it must take an oath to carry out their function correctly and faithfully.

Can. 1455 §1. Judges and tribunal personnel are always bound to observe secrecy of office in a penal trial, as well as in a contentious trial if the revelation of some procedural act could bring disadvantage to the parties.

§2. They are also always bound to observe secrecy concerning the discussion among the judges in a collegiate tribunal before the sentence is passed and concerning the various votes and opinions expressed there, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1609, §4.

§3. Whenever the nature of the case or the proofs is such that disclosure of the acts or proofs will endanger the reputation of others, provide opportunity for discord, or give rise to scandal or some other disadvantage, the judge can bind the witnesses, the experts, the parties, and their advocates or procurators by oath to observe secrecy.

Can. 1456 The judge and all officials of the tribunal are prohibited from accepting any gifts on the occasion of their acting in a trial.

Can. 1457 §1. The competent authority can punish with fitting penalties, not excluding privation from office, judges who refuse to render a judgment when they are certainly and manifestly competent, who declare themselves competent with no supporting prescript of law and adjudicate and decide cases, who violate the law of secrecy, or who inflict some other damage on the litigants out of malice or grave negligence.

§2. The ministers and personnel of a tribunal are subject to these same sanctions if they fail in their office as described above; the judge can also punish all of them.

Chapter II. The Order of Adjudication

Can. 1458 Cases are to be adjudicated in the order in which they were presented and inscribed in the register unless one of them requires speedier treatment than the others; this fact must be established through a special decree which gives the substantiating reasons.

Can. 1459 §1. Defects which can render the sentence null can be introduced as exceptions at any stage or grade of the trial; the judge can likewise declare them ex officio.

§2. In addition to the cases mentioned in §1, dilatory exceptions, especially those which regard the persons and the manner of the trial, must be proposed before the joinder of the issue unless they emerged after the issue was already joined; they must be decided as soon as possible.

Can. 1460 §1. If an exception is proposed against the competence of the judge, that judge must deal with the matter.

§2. In the case of an exception of relative incompetence, if the judge finds for competence, the decision does not admit of appeal; a complaint of nullity and restitutio in integrum, however, are not prohibited.

§3. If the judge finds for incompetence, however, the party who feels injured can appeal to the appellate tribunal within fifteen useful days.

Can. 1461 A judge who becomes aware of being absolutely incompetent at any stage of the case must declare the incompetence.

Can. 1462 §1. Exceptions of res iudicata, of agreement, and other peremptory exceptions which are called litis finitae must be proposed and adjudicated before the joinder of the issue. A person who proposes them later must not be rejected but is liable for expenses unless the person proves that the presentation was not delayed maliciously.

§2. Other peremptory exceptions are to be proposed during the joinder of the issue and must be treated at the proper time according to the rules for incidental questions.

Can. 1463 §1. Counterclaims cannot be proposed validly except within thirty days from the joinder of the issue.

§2. They are to be adjudicated, however, along with the original action, that is, in the same grade with it unless it is necessary to adjudicate them separately or the judge considers it more opportune to do so.

Can. 1464 Questions concerning the provision for judicial expenses or a grant of gratuitous legal assistance which had been requested from the very beginning and other such questions as a rule must be dealt with before the joinder of the issue.

Chapter III. Time Limits and Delays

Can. 1465 §1. Fatalia legis, that is, the time limits established by law for extinguishing rights, cannot be extended nor validly shortened unless the parties request it.

§2. Before the judicial or conventional time limits lapse, however, the judge can extend them for a just cause after the parties have been heard or if they request it; the judge, however, can never shorten those limits validly unless the parties agree.

§3. Nevertheless, the judge is to take care that such an extension does not overly prolong the litigation.

Can. 1466 When the law in no way establishes time limits for completing procedural acts, the judge must define them after having taken into consideration the nature of each act.

Can. 1467 If the tribunal is closed on the day scheduled for a judicial act, the time limit is extended to the first day following which is not a holiday.

Chapter IV. The Place of the Trial

Can. 1468 Insofar as possible, every tribunal is to be in an established location open during stated hours.

Can. 1469 §1. A judge expelled by force from his territory or impeded from the exercise of jurisdiction there can exercise jurisdiction and render a sentence outside that territory; the diocesan bishop, however, is to be informed of this.

§2. In addition to the case mentioned in §1, for a just cause and after having heard the parties, the judge can also go outside the territory to acquire proofs. This is to be done, however, with the permission of the diocesan bishop of the place where the judge goes and in the location designated by that bishop.

Chapter V. Persons to be Admitted to the Court and the Manner of Preparing and Keeping the Acts

Can. 1470 §1. Unless particular law provides otherwise, while cases are being heard before the tribunal, only those persons are to be present in court whom the law or the judge has established as necessary to expedite the process.

§2. With appropriate penalties, the judge can call to task all those present at a trial who are gravely lacking in the respect and obedience due the tribunal; furthermore, the judge can also suspend advocates and procurators from the exercise of their function in ecclesiastical tribunals.

Can. 1471 If a person to be questioned speaks a language unknown to the judge or the parties, an interpreter designated by the judge and under oath is to be used. The statements, however, are to be put into writing in the original language and a translation added. An interpreter is also to be used if a speech or hearing impaired person must be questioned unless the judge may prefer the person to answer the questions in writing.

Can. 1472 §1. The judicial acts, both the acts of the case, that is, those regarding the merit of the question, and the acts of the process, that is, those pertaining to the procedure, must be put in writing.

§2. The individual pages of the acts are to be numbered and authenticated.

Can. 1473 Whenever judicial acts require the signature of the parties or witnesses and the party or witness is unable or unwilling to sign, this is to be noted in the acts; the judge and the notary are also to attest that the act was read to the party or the witness verbatim and that the party or the witness was either not able or unwilling to sign.

Can. 1474 §1. In the case of an appeal, a copy of the acts authenticated by the attestation of a notary is to be sent to the higher tribunal.

§2. If the acts were written in a language unknown to the higher tribunal, they are to be translated into one known to that tribunal, with due precautions taken that the translation is a faithful one.

Can. 1475 §1. When the trial has been completed, documents which belong to private persons must be returned; a copy of them, however, is to be retained.

§2. Without a mandate of the judge, notaries and the chancellor are forbidden to furnish a copy of the judicial acts and documents acquired in the process.