SJC Panel: Moderator in Dudt Trial Exhibited Bias

The moderator, especially in a church trial, should give no appearance of bias…

Any manifestation of prejudice in a church trial is a ground for appeal. RE Dudt included several specifications of error claiming evidence of prejudice. One such manifestation came from the actions of the moderator himself.


RE Dudt stated the following specification of error against the Midway Session in his appeal:

25. The Session of Midway Presbyterian Church of the Presbyterian Church in America erred in procedure and exhibited a manifestation of prejudice in the trial by permitting the moderator to relinquish and reassume the chair, at will, during the trial to allow him to examine witnesses which gave an appearance of partisanship. Further manifestation of bias was exhibited when the moderator relinquished the chair to TE Barry, who admitted during the trial that he had a conflict of interest over this issue. TE Barry, because of this conflict of interest, should have held himself accountable and refused to accept the moderator’s chair. (The Oxford English Dictionary defines “moderator” as “a person whose job is to make sure that a discussion or a debate is fair.”)


The SJC panel concurred with RE Dudt. It wrote:

This specification of error is sustained.

A Minute Explanatory. Robert’s Rules of Order states: “The presiding officer who relinquished the chair then may not return to it until the pending main question has been disposed of, since he has shown himself to be a partisan as far as that particular matter is concerned. Indeed, unless a presiding officer is extremely sparing in leaving the chair to take part in debate, he may destroy members’ confidence in the impartiality of his approach to the task of presiding.” RONR (12th ed.) 43:29


The moderator in a trial is supposed to show equal deference to prosecution and defense. Robert’s Rules of Order says that, while providing strong leadership, the moderator (presiding officer) “should be fair” and “never be unjust to even the most troublesome member, or take advantage of such member’s lack of knowledge of parliamentary law.” (47:19)

This is consistent with the Bible: “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15).

It is a violation of the principle of judicial impartiality for any judge, whether moderator or court member, to assist one side over the other.


That the SJC Panel apparently concluded the moderator destroyed members’ confidence in his impartiality implies that the moderator was biased against RE Dudt, or at least acted so as to give the appearance of bias against him.

This is just one more piece of evidence showing that RE Dudt’s trial was a charade.