The Session denied RE Dudt the benefit of multiple representatives, which severely disadvantaged him…
The BCO forbids a person from hiring a lawyer to represent him in his case. BCO 32-19 calls this “professional counsel.”
The BCO permits, however, any communing member of your church to represent you before your Session. If they happen to be a lawyer, then that’s ok. You just can’t hire a lawyer, probably because that would give the advantage to wealthier members with deeper pockets.
The BCO does not limit the accused to just one representative, however.
SPECIFICATION 23 OUT OF 40
RE Dudt stated the following specification of error against the Midway Session in his appeal:
23. The Session of Midway Presbyterian Church of the Presbyterian Church in America erred in procedure when it allowed RE Dudt only one communing member of the congregation to represent him at trial when BCO 32-19 states “any communing member of the same particular church”.
THE SJC PANEL’S RESPONSE
The SJC panel concurred with RE Dudt. It wrote:
This specification of error is sustained.
A Minute Explanatory. The substance of BCO 32-19 is that professional counsel is not permitted, not that the accused is limited to only one representative.
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS VIOLATION
Let’s be honest: most church members know little to nothing about the BCO and Robert’s Rules of Order, much less legal process.
Pastors, on the other hand, are trained and at least experienced in these areas. They are supposed to study the BCO and abide by it. They pretend to master Robert’s Rules of Order and run their Session meetings like they would a trial.
So when a layman comes up against a machine, especially when the machine accuses him of hurting their feelings or whatever, he is at an extreme disadvantage. He is probably intimidated because he doesn’t know the rules, and he knows the elders know he doesn’t know the rules.
This gives the Session members a home-field advantage when they are defending their own honor.
So, to deny the accused more than a single representative, when the Session majority is of one mind and effectively a collective prosecutor, is an intentional action intended to handicap the accused and ensure the fight is not fair.
To grant the prosecutor an entire team while denying the representative the same benefit is an unequal measure.
God does not like judges who tamper with the scales of justice.
“Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:36).
“Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Prov. 20:10).
A court who recognizes that it has the home field advantage, in an act of good faith, equity, and Christian charity, would be glad to grant the accused multiple representatives, especially if it will ultimately help to bring out the truth.
This constitutional violation is consistent with this Session’s historical pattern of divisive behavior.