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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 32 : General Provisions Applicable to all Cases of Process

Paragraph 19 :

32-19. No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communing member of the same particular church, or before any other court, by any member of that court. A member of the court so employed shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the case.

[DIGEST : The current PCA text dates to the PCUS revision of 1925, and this paragraph begins its history with the PCUSA draft of a Revised Book of Discipline, in 1858. The provision afforded here in this paragraph was not found in earlier PCUSA editions. In 2000, Overture 4 from James River Presbytery came before the 28th General Assembly, seeking to "Clarify Use of Professional Counsel in Cases of Process" [M28GA, 28-72, III, Item 12, pp. 288-289]. The overture was approved under a substitution from the Committee of Commissioners on Bills and Overtures. The proposed amendment was sent down to the presbyteries for their advice and consent, and came back before the 29th General Assembly [M29GA, 29-12, Item 2, pp. 51-52], but was deferred to the next year because several presbyteries had not voted on the matter. At the 30th General Assembly, with 38 of 56 presbyteries having voted in favor of the amendment, the matter failed for not having the required 2/3's vote of the presbyteries. [M30GA, 30-10, Item 1, p. 60] .]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
PCA 1973, RoD, 6-19, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 148
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 6-19, Proposed text, p. 45
No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communing member of the same particular church, or before any other court, by any member of that court. A member of the court so employed shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the case.

PCUS 1933, VI-§211
and
PCUS 1925, VI-§211
No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court ; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communing member of the same particular church ; or before any other court, by any member of the court. A member of the court so employed shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the case.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, VI-19

No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court ; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communicating member of the same particular church ; or before any other court, by any member of the court. A member of the court so employed, shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the cause.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-19
No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the session by any communicating member of the same Congregation; or before any other court, by any member of the court. A member of the court so employed, shall not be allowed, after pleading the cause of the accused, to sit in judgment upon the case.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-19
No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the session by any communicating member of the same congregation; or before any other court, by any member of the court. A member of the court so employed, shall not be allowed, after pleading the cause of the accused, to sit in judgment upon the case.

PCUSA 1858, Revised Book of Discipline, Chapter IV - Actual Process, paragraph 13

No professional counsel shall be permitted to appear and plead in cases of process in any of our ecclesiastical courts; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented by any communicating member of the Church, subject to the jurisdiction of the court before which he appears. The person so employed, if a member of court, shall not be allowed, after pleading the cause of the accused, to sit in judgment upon the case.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 206), on Rules of Discipline, VI-19:

190.--XIX. No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court ; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communicating member of the same particular church ; or before any other court, by any member of the court. A member of the court so employed, shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the cause.
The court is not bound to allow him to be so represented ; nor can any act as counsel before a Session unless a member of the same particular church with the accused, or before any other court unless a member of it. It follows that no person condemned can have the same counsel through all the higher courts. And this limitation will tend to discourage appeals.



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