Section I. The Ordinary Contentious Trial - Title IV. Proofs
Can. 1526 §1. The burden of proof rests upon the person who makes the allegation.
§2. The following do not need proof:
1° matters presumed by the law itself;
2° facts alleged by one of the contending parties and admitted by the other unless the law or the judge nevertheless requires proof.
Can. 1527 §1. Proofs of any kind which seem useful for adjudicating the case and are licit can be brought forward.
§2. If a party insists that a proof rejected by a judge be accepted, the judge is to decide the matter as promptly as possible (expeditissime).
Can. 1528 If a party or a witness refuses to appear before the judge to testify, it is permissible to hear them through a lay person designated by the judge or to require of them a declaration either before a notary public or in any other legitimate manner.
Can. 1529 Except for a grave cause, the judge is not to proceed to collect the proofs before the joinder of the issue.
Chapter I. The Declarations of the Parties
Can. 1530 The judge can always question the parties to draw out the truth more effectively and indeed must do so at the request of a party or to prove a fact which the public interest requires to be placed beyond doubt.
Can. 1531 §1. A party legitimately questioned must respond and must tell the whole truth.
§2. If a party refuses to respond, it is for the judge to decide what can be inferred from that refusal concerning the proof of the facts.
Can. 1532 In cases where the public good is at stake, the judge is to administer an oath to the parties to tell the truth or at least to confirm the truth of what they have said unless a grave cause suggests otherwise; the same can be done in other cases according to the judge’s own prudence.
Can. 1533 The parties, the promoter of justice, and the defender of the bond can present the judge with items about which the party is to be questioned.
Can. 1534 The provisions of cann. 1548, §2, n. 1, 1552, and 1558–1565 concerning witnesses are to be observed to the extent possible when questioning the parties.
Can. 1535 A judicial confession is the written or oral assertion of some fact against oneself before a competent judge by any party concerning the matter of the trial, whether made spontaneously or while being questioned by the judge.
Can. 1536 §1. The judicial confession of one party relieves the other parties from the burden of proof if it concerns some private matter and the public good is not at stake.
§2. In cases which regard the public good, however, a judicial confession and declarations of the parties which are not confessions can have a probative force which the judge must evaluate together with the other circumstances of the case; the force of full proof cannot be attributed to them, however, unless other elements are present which thoroughly corroborate them.
Can. 1537 After considering all the circumstances, it is for the judge to decide how much value must be accorded an extrajudicial confession introduced into the trial.
Can. 1538 A confession or any other declaration of a party lacks any force if it is shown that it was made due to an error of fact or extorted by force or grave fear.
Chapter II. Proof Through Documents
Can. 1539 In any kind of trial, proof by means of both public and private documents is allowed.
Art. 1. The Nature and Trustworthiness of Documents
Can. 1540 §1. Public ecclesiastical documents are those which a public person has drawn up in the exercise of that person’s function in the Church, after the solemnities prescribed by law have been observed.
§2. Public civil documents are those which the laws of each place consider to be such.
§3. Other documents are private.
Can. 1541 Unless contrary and evident arguments prove otherwise, public documents are to be trusted concerning everything which they directly and principally affirm.
Can. 1542 A private document, whether acknowledged by a party or approved by the judge, has the same force of proof against the author or signatory and those deriving a case from them as an extrajudicial confession. It has the same force against those who are not parties to the case as declarations of the parties which are not confessions, according to the norm of can. 1536, §2.
Can. 1543 If the documents are shown to have been erased, emended, falsified, or otherwise defective, it is for the judge to decide what value, if any, must be afforded them.
Art. 2. The Presentation of Documents
Can. 1544 Documents do not have probative force in a trial unless they are originals or authentic copies and deposited at the tribunal chancery so that the judge and the opposing party can examine them.
Can. 1545 The judge can order a document common to both parties to be presented in the process.
Can. 1546 §1. Even if documents are common, no one is bound to present those which cannot be communicated without danger of harm according to the norm of can. 1548, §2, n. 2 or without danger of violating an obligation to observe secrecy.
§2. Nonetheless, if at least some small part of a document can be transcribed and presented in copy without the above-mentioned disadvantages, the judge can decree that it be produced.
Chapter III. Witnesses and Testimonies
Can. 1547 Proof by means of witnesses is allowed under the direction of the judge in cases of any kind.
Can. 1548 §1. When the judge questions witnesses legitimately, they must tell the truth.
§2. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1550, §2, n. 2, the following are exempted from the obligation to respond:
1° clerics regarding what has been made known to them by reason of sacred ministry; civil officials, physicians, midwives, advocates, notaries, and others bound by professional secrecy even by reason of having given advice, regarding those matters subject to this secrecy;
2° those who fear that from their own testimony ill repute, dangerous hardships, or other grave evils will befall them, their spouses, or persons related to them by consanguinity or affinity.
Art. 1. Those Who Can Be Witnesses
Can. 1549 All persons can be witnesses unless the law expressly excludes them in whole or in part.
Can. 1550 §1. Minors below the fourteenth year of age and those of limited mental capacity are not allowed to give testimony; they can, however, be heard by a decree of the judge which declares such a hearing expedient.
§2. The following are considered incapable:
1° the parties in the case or those who stand for the parties at the trial, the judge and the judge’s assistants, the advocate, and others who assist or have assisted the parties in the same case;
2° priests regarding all matters which they have come to know from sacramental confession even if the penitent seeks their disclosure; moreover, matters heard by anyone and in any way on the occasion of confession cannot be accepted even as an indication of the truth.
Art. 2. The Introduction and Exclusion of Witnesses
Can. 1551 The party who has introduced a witness can renounce the examination of that witness; the opposing party, however, can request that the witness be examined nevertheless.
Can. 1552 §1. When proof through witnesses is requested, their names and domicile are to be communicated to the tribunal.
§2. The items of discussion about which questioning of the witnesses is sought are to be presented within the time period set by the judge; otherwise, the request is to be considered as abandoned.
Can. 1553 It is for the judge to curb an excessive number of witnesses.
Can. 1554 Before the witnesses are examined, their names are to be communicated to the parties; if in the prudent judgment of the judge, however, that cannot be done without grave difficulty, it is to be done at least before the publication of the testimonies.
Can. 1555 Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1550, a party can request the exclusion of a witness if a just cause for the exclusion is shown before the questioning of the witness.
Can. 1556 The citation of a witness occurs through a decree of the judge legitimately communicated to the witness.
Can. 1557 A witness who has been cited properly is to appear or to inform the judge of the reason for the absence.
Art. 3. The Examination of Witnesses
Can. 1558 §1. Witnesses must be examined at the tribunal unless the judge deems otherwise.
§2. Cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, and those who possess a similar favor by civil law are to be heard in the place they select.
§3. The judge is to decide where to hear those for whom it is impossible or difficult to come to the tribunal because of distance, sickness, or some impediment, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 1418 and 1469, §2.
Can. 1559 The parties cannot be present at the examination of the witnesses unless the judge has decided to admit them, especially when the matter concerns a private good. Their advocates or procurators, however, can be present unless the judge has decided that the examination must proceed in secret due to the circumstances of the matters and persons.
Can. 1560 §1. Each witness must be examined separately.
§2. If witnesses disagree among themselves or with a party in a grave matter, the judge, after having removed discord and scandal insofar as possible, can have those who disagree meet together or confront one another.
Can. 1561 The judge, the judge’s delegate, or an auditor examines the witness; the examiner must have the assistance of a notary. Consequently, if the parties, the promoter of justice, the defender of the bond, or the advocates present at the examination have any questions to be put to the witness, they are to propose them not to the witness but to the judge or the one who takes the place of the judge, who is to ask the questions, unless particular law provides otherwise.
Can. 1562 §1. The judge is to call to the attention of the witness the grave obligation to speak the whole truth and only the truth.
§2. The judge is to administer an oath to the witness according to can. 1532; a witness who refuses to take it, however, is to be heard without the oath.
Can. 1563 The judge is first of all to establish the identity of the witness, then ask what relationship the witness has with the parties, and, when addressing specific questions to the witness concerning the case, also inquire about the sources of his or her knowledge and the precise time when the witness learned what he or she asserts.
Can. 1564 The questions are to be brief, accommodated to the mental capacity of the person being questioned, not comprised of several points at the same time, not deceitful or deceptive or suggestive of a response, free from any kind of offense, and pertinent to the case being tried.
Can. 1565 §1. Questions must not be communicated to the witnesses beforehand.
§2. Nonetheless, if the matters about which testimony must be given are so remote to memory that they cannot be affirmed with certainty unless previously recalled, the judge can advise the witness beforehand on some matters if the judge thinks this can be done without danger.
Can. 1566 Witnesses are to give testimony orally and are not to read written materials unless they are computations and accounts; in this case, they can consult the notes which they brought with them.
Can. 1567 §1. The notary is to write down the response immediately and must report the exact words of the testimony given, at least in what pertains to those points which touch directly upon the material of the trial.
§2. The use of a tape recorder can be allowed, provided that the responses are afterwards transcribed and, if possible, signed by the deponents.
Can. 1568 The notary is to make mention in the acts of whether the oath was taken, excused, or refused, of the presence of the parties and other persons, of the questions added ex officio, and in general of everything worth remembering which may have occurred while the witnesses were being examined.
Can. 1569 §1. At the end of the examination, what the notary has written down from the deposition must be read to the witness, or what has been recorded with the tape recorder during the deposition must be played, giving the witness the opportunity to add, suppress, correct, or change it.
§2. Finally, the witness, the judge, and the notary must sign the acts.
Can. 1570 Although already examined, witnesses can be recalled for examination before the acts or testimonies are published, either at the request of a party or ex officio, if the judge decides it is necessary or useful, provided that there is no danger of collusion or corruption.
Can. 1571 Both the expenses which the witnesses incurred and the income which they lost by giving testimony must be reimbursed to them according to the just assessment of the judge.
Art. 4. The Trustworthiness of Testimonies
Can. 1572 In evaluating testimony, the judge, after having requested testimonial letters if necessary, is to consider the following:
1° what the condition or reputation of the person is;
2° whether the testimony derives from personal knowledge, especially from what has been seen or heard personally, or whether from opinion, rumor, or hearsay;
3° whether the witness is reliable and firmly consistent or inconsistent, uncertain, or vacillating;
4° whether the witness has co-witnesses to the testimony or is supported or not by other elements of proof.
Can. 1573 The testimony of one witness cannot produce full proof unless it concerns a qualified witness making a deposition concerning matters done ex officio, or unless the circumstances of things and persons suggest otherwise.
Chapter IV. Experts
Can. 1574 The assistance of experts must be used whenever the prescript of a law or of the judge requires their examination and opinion based on the precepts of art or science in order to establish some fact or to discern the true nature of some matter.
Can. 1575 After having heard the parties and their suggestions, it is for the judge to appoint the experts or, if the case warrants, to accept reports already drawn up by other experts.
Can. 1576 Experts are excluded or can be objected to for the same reasons as a witness.
Can. 1577 §1. Attentive to what the litigants may bring forward, the judge is to determine in a decree the individual items upon which the services of the expert must focus.
§2. The acts of the case and other documents and aids which the expert can need to fulfill his or her function correctly and faithfully must be turned over to the expert.
§3. After having heard the expert, the judge is to determine the time within which the expert must complete the examination and produce the report.
Can. 1578 §1. Each of the experts is to prepare a report separate from the others unless the judge decrees that one report signed by the experts individually be drawn up; if this is done, differences of opinion, if there are any, are to be noted carefully.
§2. Experts must indicate clearly by what documents or other suitable means they gained certainty of the identity of the persons, things, or places, by what manner and method they proceeded in fulfilling the function entrusted to them, and above all on which arguments they based their conclusions.
§3. The judge can summon the expert to supply explanations which later seem necessary.
Can. 1579 §1. The judge is to weigh carefully not only the conclusions of the experts, even if they are in agreement, but also the other circumstances of the case.
§2. When giving reasons for the decision, the judge must express what considerations prompted him or her to accept or reject the conclusions of the experts.
Can. 1580 The judge must justly and equitably determine the expenses and fees to be paid to the experts, with due regard for particular law.
Can. 1581 §1. The parties can designate private experts whom the judge must approve.
§2. If the judge allows them, the private experts can inspect the acts of the case insofar as necessary and attend the presentation of the expert testimony; moreover, they can always present their own report.
Chapter V. Judicial Examination and Inspection
Can. 1582 If, in order to decide a case, the judge considers it opportune to visit some place or to inspect some thing, the judge, after having heard the parties, is to order it by a decree describing in summary fashion those things which must be exhibited during the visit or inspection.
Can. 1583 When the visit or inspection has been completed, a report about it is to be drafted.
Chapter VI. Presumptions
Can. 1584 A presumption is a probable conjecture about an uncertain matter; a presumption of law is one which the law itself establishes; a human presumption is one which a judge formulates.
Can. 1585 A person who has a favorable presumption of law is freed from the burden of proof, which then falls to the other party.
Can. 1586 The judge is not to formulate presumptions which are not established by law unless they are directly based on a certain and determined fact connected with the matter in dispute.