Court Rule Amendments Consultation

Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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The Court is considering amendments to its rules, as indicated below.

In brief, the changes are:
  • Introduction of a requirement for the Court to encourage government officials to respond to reviews concerning them;
  • Express statement of the ability and mechanism to withdraw requests for review;
  • Extension of the timetable for delivering opinions in reviews from seven days to fourteen days;
  • Introduction of a set of rules to govern Freedom of Information reviews;
  • Introduction of a mechanism to allow for proceedings to continue where appeals or reviews relating to them are vexatious
The introduction of the requirement to encourage responses is, essentially, being considered because such responses tend to assist the Court in considering the request for review, particularly where they are brought by petitioners who may not wholly understand (and consequently, misstate) the reasoning or basis of the decision they are seeking to review.

The codification of the ability to withdraw requests is, I think, self-explanatory.

The extension of the timetable for delivering opinions is an effort to reflect the reality that many reviews tend to require longer than seven days for an opinion to be drafted. While some deadline to judge the efficacy of the Court against is useful, there is not much use in that deadline being such that it is breached far more often than not. In looking into this, I found that, of requests for review since the introduction of the timetable, the majority of them had concluded in fourteen days or thereabout (running from the final end of briefs until the delivery of the opinion) whereas those that lasted longer than fourteen days tended to last substantially longer, most over double that time. The amended timetable would, that in mind, better reflect the standard of the Court in delivering its opinions and be a more useful scale against which to assess that process.

The Freedom of Information rules are the most substantial alterations to the process. In the main they seek to reflect the provisions of the Legal Code concerning these requests. Areas of difference are that: there is a provision to defer acceptance or denial of a request, in order to give the government a reasonable opportunity to respond and avoid the prospect of a person making an initial request of government then immediately taking the matter to the Court; there is express provision for arguments to be made concerning the review; and that the Court will order release where evidence is not presented. The latter two of these, I would suggest, would simply be inherent in whatever process is adopted, given that it would be unusual for the interested parties to be barred from making argument and that the Court could not realistically reach a conclusion that the information is properly classified without any evidence.

The mechanism concerning vexatious appeals and reviews relies on the Court considering the appeal or review to make that determination (rather than it being for the Court being appealed against or reviewed) and the test for the determination is strictly drawn for those which are frivolous or solely dilatory. This is, as one might imagine, to avoid the prospective problem that exists in the current rules of a party to an action continuously bring appeals or reviews in order to prevent the substantive proceedings that they are a party to from being determined but to safeguard against it being abused by a Court determined to proceed with substantive proceedings despite there being legitimate concerns as to their propriety.

Chapter 2: Requests for Review
  1. Anyone may submit a request to the Court for a review of government policy or law.
  2. Any Justice may accept or deny a request for review, at their discretion. The Justice who accepts a request for review will become its Moderating Justice.
  3. The Moderating Justice will promptly identify the government officials whose actions or policies are impugned by a request, or, in relation to a government body, the government official ultimately responsible for leading that body. Those identified, in relation to a request, will be respondents to it.
  4. The Moderating Justice will contact the respondents to a request for review, inform them of the review, and invite them to make submissions to the Court in relation to it.
  5. During the five days after a request for review has been accepted, anyone may offer information that is relevant to the case and/or advise the Court on how to rule in the form of a brief.
  6. The period for submitting briefs may be altered at the discretion of the Moderating Justice.
  7. A petitioner in a request for review may withdraw the request for review by a post in the thread for the review at any time before the Court delivers its opinion.
  8. The Court will endeavor to deliver an opinion answering the request for review within sevenfourteen days after the end of the period for submitting briefs.
Chapter 3: Freedom of Information Reviews
  1. Where an initial request has been made to the government for the release of information under the Legal Code and the resident making the initial request has not received the requested information, that resident may file a request for the information.
  2. Any Justice may accept or deny a request.
  3. A request for information may be denied only on the basis that it relates to information which is not owned by the government as defined by the Legal Code.
  4. Where it appears to the Court that the request has been filed without giving the government a reasonable opportunity to respond to the initial request, the Court may defer accepting or denying the request until the government has had such an opportunity. A deferral will last for a definite period of time of no more than seven days.
  5. When a request is accepted, the Chief Justice will promptly appoint a Moderating Justice.
  6. The Moderating Justice will promptly open a thread for the review and will notify the government of the review via private message on the forum.
  7. During the five days after a thread has been opened, the government may make arguments and present evidence to the Court demonstrating that one or more of the criteria for classification are met.
  8. Evidence may be presented privately where presenting it publicly would risk the release of classified information.
  9. The resident making the initial request may make arguments concerning whether the requested information meets the criteria for classification.
  10. The Court will endeavour to deliver a decision on the request within seven days of the conclusion of the period during which the government may present evidence.
  11. The decision of the Court must be accompanied with reasons for the decision.
  12. In all cases where the government does not present evidence to the Court, the Court will order the release of the information.
  13. In all other cases, the Court may order the release of all of the information or part of it or may determine that all of it or some of it meets the criteria for classification.
  14. For the purposes of this chapter, the definitions in the Legal Code in relation to requests for information from the Delegate and Executive Officers will apply.
Chapter 34: Decorum

Section 1: Judicial Conduct
  1. Justices are discouraged from posting in the Public Gallery except when making official announcements unrelated to any trial or review.
  2. A Moderating Justice is strictly prohibited from posting in any thread in the Public Gallery relating to the issue they are moderating, barring truly exceptional circumstances.
  3. Justices must endeavor to recuse themselves from matters where they have a conflict of interest.
  4. Justices are required to recuse themselves from any matter where the majority of the Court orders them to.
Section 2: General Conduct
  1. All indictments, requests for review, briefs, Court decisions, and other official filings must be presented using an established template, if one exists.
  2. All parties in any matter before the court must conduct themselves in an appropriate, legal, and civil manner.
  3. Posts which fail to meet the above requirements may be split at the discretion of the Moderating Justice, and will not be considered in the Court's deliberations.
  4. An individual may, by the unanimous decision of the Court and based on excessive or repeated poor behavior, be declared to be in contempt in a particular issue before the Court.
  5. Motions made by individuals declared to be in contempt may be summarily denied, and the timeline of relevant matters need not be altered in order to accommodate any disciplinary actions handed down by forum administration.
  6. Any finding of contempt will be immediately rescinded should the Regional Assembly object to that finding by majority vote.
Chapter 45: Precedent and Appeals

Section 1: Precedent
  1. All official Court decisions are legally binding on the Court as a whole as well as each individual Justice.
  2. Prior decisions made by the Court, regardless of its composition at the time, must continue to be obeyed by the Court and by each individual Justice until and unless their validity is formally overturned in a new request for review.
  3. The Court is a reactive body. Without any such request, the Court may not proactively overturn previous rulings.
  4. No Justice may act contrary to the opinions and decisions of the Court as a whole.
Section 2: Appeals
  1. The petitioner in a rejected request for review, as well as any of the participating parties in a criminal trial, may appeal a decision made by an individual Justice to the Court as a whole for consideration.
  2. The petitioner in an accepted request for review, as well as any of the participating parties in a criminal trial, may file a request asking the Court to order the recusal of any Justice from hearing or ruling on a particular case.
  3. During the proceedings onf a matter before the Court, substantive appeals and requests which relate to that matter must be addressedresolved before the proceedings can continue, unless the contrary is allowed under this section.
  4. The Court determining an appeal or review relating to Court proceedings may, if it determines that the appeal or review is being made frivolously or solely for the purpose of delaying the proceedings to which the appeal or review relates, may, by unanimous vote, allow the proceedings to which the appeal or review relates to continue before the appeal or review is resolved.
  5. A decision to allow proceedings to continue despite an appeal or review not yet being resolved will apply to all appeals or reviews relating to those proceedings unless the Court determining an appeal or review decides to the contrary, in which case the proceedings must not continue until that appeal or review is resolved.

The Court, while plainly reserving its right to determine its own rules, invites the comments and views of the Assembly on these proposed changes.
 

Dreadton

TuffingTost Senior Reporter
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The changes seem reasonable at first glance.

Would the court consider adding a provision to allow an appeals court to read the courts internal deliberation thread under seal, when said deliberations are still classified?
 

Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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The changes seem reasonable at first glance.

Would the court consider adding a provision to allow an appeals court to read the courts internal deliberation thread under seal, when said deliberations are still classified?
That has not formed part of the current considerations of the Court, but, plainly, the Court could consider it. Naturally, I cannot speak for my fellow Justices or for prospective Justices, other than myself, but I would be happy to consider it.

I have to say, I would be somewhat hesitant to have it as a matter of course. Ultimately, the reasoned decisions of the Court should stand or fall on the basis of their public reasons, given that it is only those reasons given that a party could make any challenge to and that a party and the public would not be in any position to judge the propriety of the decision of the reviewing Court if its own decision rested on information that was private. Were a decision of the Court to be challenged on the basis that its public reasoning does not reflect its private reasoning, then I can well see the rationale, but outside of that it seems to me to create difficulty in the accountability of the Court, which necessarily rests on individuals being able to assess its public acts.
 

Gorundu

When in doubt, blame Bob
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The mechanism concerning vexatious appeals and reviews relies on the Court considering the appeal or review to make that determination (rather than it being for the Court being appealed against or reviewed) and the test for the determination is strictly drawn for those which are frivolous or solely dilatory. This is, as one might imagine, to avoid the prospective problem that exists in the current rules of a party to an action continuously bring appeals or reviews in order to prevent the substantive proceedings that they are a party to from being determined but to safeguard against it being abused by a Court determined to proceed with substantive proceedings despite there being legitimate concerns as to their propriety.
I assume just like any other rulings, a determination on whether an appeal/review is vexatious can be appealed?

Also, on the timetable to deliver opinions, I would prefer it to be kept to the current 7 days. A little time pressure always gets people to act faster, I think. The more you relieve that pressure, the more people are going to ignore it.
 

Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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I assume just like any other rulings, a determination on whether an appeal/review is vexatious can be appealed?

Also, on the timetable to deliver opinions, I would prefer it to be kept to the current 7 days. A little time pressure always gets people to act faster, I think. The more you relieve that pressure, the more people are going to ignore it.
A determination would probably be susceptible to request for review, but the effect of the rule would be such that that the underlying substantive proceedings could continue despite that review unless the Court conducting that review determined to the contrary.

I would note that the current timetable does not seem to have actually resulted in most reviews being determined within the timetable set, I think four of twenty reviews determined since the rule was adopted have been within the timetable, so it seems that many Justices and THOs have been content to run beyond the timetable. I would hesitate to describe it as ignoring the timetable, I think the reality is that a substantial number of reviews simply need a bit longer.
 

Vivanco

I don't know anymore.
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I would like to suggest the addition of the form of a court-stablished defense for those cases in which the defendant is unable to find by themselves a defense counselor, in case the need arises.
 

Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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I would like to suggest the addition of the form of a court-stablished defense for those cases in which the defendant is unable to find by themselves a defense counselor, in case the need arises.
The present Court Rules concerning criminal cases provide for the Court to appoint defence counsel where a Defendant does not do so and does not wish to defend themselves.
 

Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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By way of a final notice in relation to these matters, the Court is minded to make the amendments indicated. Further comments and representations should be made in the coming three days, after which the Court is likely to make the amendments.
 

Crushing Our Enemies

TNPer
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Deputy Speaker
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Why do you need a procedure for allowing proceedings to continue when vexatious r4r's are submitted? Can't you simply deny the r4r and proceed? And if multiple successive r4r's are submitted, you can simply hold the petitioner(s) in contempt.
 
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Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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Why do you need a procedure for allowing proceedings to continue when vexatious r4r's are submitted? Can't you simply deny the r4r and proceed? And if multiple successive r4r's are submitted, you can simply hold the petitioner(s) in contempt.
The Court determining a matter could not properly dismiss a request concerning its own decision, the matter would need to halt, even if only for THOs to be repeatedly appointed to deny the requests. In any event, one could draft requests that are doomed to fail (for instance because they are identical to a previous request decided against the party) but that satisfy the requirement of standing, such requests may be bound to be accepted and decided, notwithstanding that they will be decided against the petitioner and, in some instances at least, would be vexatious or dilatory.

The contempt rule would not, I suggest, suffice in such a scenario because it is limited to a particular issue before the Court, so would not cover reviews, as they are separate (albeit related) proceedings from those they are reviewing and because the sanction of contempt relates principally to the making of motions, which does not clearly cover requests for review.
 

Crushing Our Enemies

TNPer
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Deputy Speaker
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I'll give you the point on contempt, but you still have to appoint THOs either way, unless you're suggesting that under these rules, a panel of justices could determine a r4r is vexatious even though it would be out of order for them to take up the request.
 
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Zyvetskistaahn

TNPer
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I'll give you the point on contempt, but you still have to appoint THOs either way, unless you're suggesting that under these rules, a panel of justices could determine a r4r is vexatious even though it would be out of order for them to take up the request.
It is right that, prior to the initial exercise of the power, there would necessarily be some delay, as the power is exercisable by “The Court determining an appeal or review”, so THOs would need to be appointed for the initial determination. However, once the determination is made, it “will apply to all appeals or reviews relating to those proceedings”. Consequently, though there is a delay with the initial vexatious review, subsequent reviews would not stop the main proceedings unless the reviewing Court dealing with a subsequent review decides it is not vexatious.

The presumption, initially, is that reviews are properly brought and, therefore, it is right that the main proceedings should stop for them, but once the determination is made that a review is vexatious, the presumption is reversed and the main proceedings only stop if the reviewing Court so decides.
 
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