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