|Processes » Trials in General » Different Grades and Kinds of Tribunals » The tribunal of the first instance » The judge
|§1 In each diocese and for all cases which are not expressly excepted in law, the judge of first instance is the diocesan Bishop. He can exercise his judicial power either personally or through others, in accordance with the following canons.
§2 If the case concerns the rights or temporal goods of a juridical person represented by the Bishop, the appeal tribunal is to judge in first instance.
|§1 Each diocesan Bishop is obliged to appoint a judicial Vicar, or
‘Officialis’, with ordinary power to judge. The judicial Vicar is to be a person distinct from the Vicar general, unless the smallness of the diocese or the limited number of cases suggests otherwise.
§2 The judicial Vicar constitutes one tribunal with the Bishop, but cannot judge cases which the Bishop reserves to himself.
§3 The judicial Vicar can be given assistants, who are called associate judicial Vicars or ‘Vice-officiales’.
§4 The judicial Vicar and the associate judicial Vicars must be priests of good repute, with a doctorate or at least a licentiate in canon law, and not less than thirty years of age.
§5 When the see is vacant, they do not cease from office, nor can they be removed by the diocesan Administrator. On the coming of the new Bishop, however, they need to be confirmed in office.
|§1 In each diocese the Bishop is to appoint diocesan judges, who are to be clerics.
§2 The Episcopal Conference can permit that lay persons also be appointed judges.
Where necessity suggests, one of these can be chosen in forming a college of Judges.
§3 Judges are to be of good repute, and possess a doctorate, or at least a licentiate, in canon law.
|The judicial Vicar, the associate judicial Vicars and the other judges are appointed for a specified period of time, without prejudice to the provision of can.
1420 §5. They cannot be removed from office except for a lawful and grave reason.
|§1 With the approval of the Apostolic See, several diocesan Bishops can agree to establish one tribunal of first instance in their dioceses, in place of the diocesan tribunals mentioned in can. 1419-1421. In this case the group of Bishops, or a Bishop designated by them, has all the powers which the diocesan Bishop has for his tribunal.
§2 The tribunals mentioned in §1 can be established for all cases, or for some types of cases only.
|In any trial a sole judge can associate with himself two assessors as advisers; they may be clerics or lay persons of good repute.
|§1 The following matters are reserved to a collegiate tribunal of three judges, any contrary custom being reprobated:
1° contentious cases: a) concerning the bond of sacred ordination; b) concerning the bond of marriage, without prejudice to the provisions of cann. 1686 and 1688;
2° penal cases: a) for offences which can carry the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state; b) concerning the imposition or declaration of an excommunication.
§2 The Bishop can entrust the more difficult cases or those of greater importance to the judgement of three or of five judges.
§3 The judicial Vicar is to assign judges in order by rotation to hear the individual cases, unless in particular cases the Bishop has decided otherwise.
§4 In a trial at first instance, if it should happen that it is impossible to constitute a college of judges, the Episcopal Conference can for as long as the impossibility persists, permit the Bishop to entrust cases to a sole clerical judge. Where possible, the sole judge is to associate with himself an assessor and an auditor.
§5 Once judges have been designated, the judicial Vicar is not to replace them, except for a very grave reason, which must be expressed in a decree.
|§1 A collegiate tribunal must proceed in a collegiate fashion and give its judgement by majority vote.
§2 As far as possible, the judicial Vicar or an associate judicial Vicar must preside over the collegiate tribunal.
|§1 If there is a controversy between religious, or houses of the same clerical religious institute of pontifical right, the judge at first instance, unless the
constitutions provide otherwise, is the provincial Superior or, if an autonomous monastery is concerned, the local Abbot.
§2 Without prejudice to a different provision in the constitutions, when a contentious matter arises between two provinces, the supreme Moderator, either personally or through a delegate, will be the judge at first instance. If the controversy is between two monasteries, the Abbot superior of the monastic congregation will be the judge.
§3 Finally, if a controversy arises between physical or juridical persons of different religious institutes or even of the same clerical institute of diocesan right or of the same lay institute, or between a religious person and a secular cleric or a lay person or a non-religious juridical person, it is the diocesan tribunal which judges at first instance.
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