» Trials in General
» The Discipline To Be Observed in Tribunals
» The duty of judges and ministers of the tribunal
§1 All Christ’s faithful, and especially Bishops, are to strive earnestly, with due regard for justice, to ensure that disputes among the people of God are as far as possible avoided, and are settled promptly and without rancour.
§2 In the early stages of litigation, and indeed at any other time as often as he discerns any hope of a successful outcome, the judge is not to fail to exhort and assist the parties to seek an equitable solution to their controversy in discussions with one another. He is to indicate to them suitable means to this end and avail himself of serious-minded persons to mediate.
§3 If the issue is about the private good of the parties, the judge is to discern whether an agreement or a judgement by an arbitrator, in accordance with the norms of cann.
1717-1720, might usefully serve to resolve the controversy.
Any person involved in a case as judge, promotor of justice, defender of the bond, procurator, advocate, witness or expert cannot subsequently, in another instance, validly determine the same case as a judge or exercise the role of assessor in it.
§1 The judge is not to undertake the hearing of a case in which any personal interest may be 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 guardianship or tutelage, or of close acquaintanceship or marked hostility or possible financial profit or loss.
§2 The promotor of justice, the defender of the bond, the assessor and the auditor must likewise refrain from exercising their offices in these circumstances.
§1 In the cases mentioned in can. 1448,
if the judge himself does not refrain from exercising his office, a party may object to him.
§2 The judicial Vicar is to deal with this objection. If the objection is directed against the judicial Vicar himself, the Bishop in charge of the tribunal is to deal with the matter.
§3 If the Bishop is the judge and the objection is directed against him, he is to refrain from judging.
§4 If the objection is directed against the promotor of justice, the defender of the bond or any other officer of the tribunal, it is to be dealt with by the presiding judge of a collegial tribunal, or by the sole judge if there is only one.
If the objection is upheld, the persons in question are to be changed, but not the grade of trial.
§1 The objection is to be decided with maximum expedition, after hearing the parties, the promotor of justice or the defender of the bond, if they are engaged in the trial and the objection is not directed against them.
§2 Acts performed by a judge before being objected to are valid. Acts performed after the objection has been lodged must be rescinded if a party requests this within ten days of the admission of the objection.
§1 In a matter which concerns private persons exclusively, a judge can proceed only at the request of a party. In penal cases, however, and in other cases which affect the public good of the Church or the salvation of souls, once the case has been lawfully introduced, the judge can and must proceed ex officio.
§2 The judge can also supply for the negligence of the parties in bringing forward evidence or in opposing exceptions, whenever this is considered necessary in order to avoid a gravely unjust judgement, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1600
Judges and tribunals are to ensure that, within the bounds of justice, all cases are brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible. They are to see to it that in the tribunal of first instance cases are not protracted beyond a year, and in the tribunal of second instance not beyond six months.
All who constitute a tribunal or assist in it must take an oath to exercise their office properly and faithfully.
§1 In a penal trial, the judges and tribunal assistants are bound to observe always the secret of the office; in a contentious trial, they are bound to observe it if the revelation of any part of the acts of the process could be prejudicial to the parties.
§2 They are also obliged to maintain permanent secrecy concerning the discussion held by the judges before giving their judgement, and concerning the various votes and opinions expressed there, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1609
§3 Indeed, the judge can oblige witnesses, experts, and the parties and their advocates or procurators, to swear an oath to observe secrecy. This may be done if the nature of the case or of the evidence is such that revelation of the acts or evidence would put at risk the reputation of others, or give rise to quarrels, or cause scandal or have any similar untoward consequence.
The judge and all who work in the tribunal are forbidden to accept any gifts on the occasion of a trial.
§1 Judges can be punished by the competent authority with appropriate penalties, not excluding the loss of office, if, though certainly and manifestly competent, they refuse to give judgement; if, with no legal support, they declare themselves competent and hear and determine cases; if they breach the law of secrecy; or if, through deceit or serious negligence, they cause harm to the litigants.
§2 Tribunal officers and assistants are subject to the same penalties if they fail in their duty as above. The judge also has the power to punish them.
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