IX. The Ecclesiastical Court

1. Judicial authority in the Russian Orthodox Church shall be exercised by the Ecclesiastical Courts through ecclesiastical legal proceedings.
2. The judicial system in the Russian Orthodox Church shall be established on the basis of the holy canons, the present Statute and the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
3. The unity of the judicial system of the Russian Orthodox Church shall be ensured by:
a) observance by all ecclesiastical courts of the established rules of ecclesiastical legal proceedings;
b) recognition of the necessity of the execution by all canonical units and all members of the Russian Orthodox Church of the court rulings which have taken legal effect;
4. The judgement in the Russian Orthodox Church shall be exercised by the ecclesiastical courts of three instances:
a) the diocesan courts with jurisdiction within their dioceses;
b) the higher ecclesiastical court instances of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Autonomous and Self-governing Churches, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Exarchates and Metropolitan areas (in case the higher ecclesiastical court instances are present in the above-mentioned parts of the Russian Orthodox Church) with jurisdiction within these parts of the Russian Orthodox Church;
c) the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court with jurisdiction within the Russian Orthodox Church with the exception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church;
d) the Court of the Bishops’ Council with jurisdiction within the whole Russian Orthodox Church.
5. The canonical sanctions such as suspension for life from ministry, defrocking and excommunication from the Church shall be imposed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia or the diocesan bishop with subsequent approval by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – by the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church).
6. The order of vesting the judges of the ecclesiastical courts with decision authority shall be determined on the basis of the holy canons, the present Statute and the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
7. The legal actions shall be accepted for consideration by the ecclesiastical court in the order and under the conditions determined by the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
8. The rulings of the ecclesiastical courts, which have taken legal effect, as well as orders, requests, instructions, summons and other warrants of the court shall be binding for all clerics and lay people without any exception.
9. The proceedings in all ecclesiastical courts shall be carried out in closed session.
10. The diocesan court shall be the court of first instance.
11. The clergymen whom the diocesan bishop empowered to administer justice in the diocese entrusted to him can be the judges of the diocesan courts.
A vicar bishop or a presbyter may be chairman of the court. The members of the court must be presbyters.
12. The diocesan court shall consist of at least five judges in the rank of bishops or priests. The chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of the diocesan court shall be appointed by the diocesan bishop. The diocesan assembly shall elect at least two members of the diocesan court on the presentation from the diocesan bishop. The term of the diocesan court judges shall be three years with possible re-appointment or re-election to a new term.
13. The recall of the chairman or a member of the diocesan court before time shall be carried out according to the decision of the diocesan bishop.
14. Ecclesiastical legal proceedings shall be exercised in court session with the participation of the chairman and at least two members of the court.
15. The competence and procedure of judicial proceedings of the diocesan court shall be determined by the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
16. The rulings of the diocesan court shall take effect and shall be enforced after their approval by the diocesan bishop, and in the event stipulated by Article 5 of this Chapter after their approval by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine and the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church).
17. The diocesan courts shall be financed from the diocesan budgets.
18. The Supreme Ecclesiastical Court as the court of first instance shall consider cases of ecclesiastical misdemeanours committed by the bishops and heads of the Synodal institutions. The Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall be the court of second instance for the cases of ecclesiastical misdemeanours committed by the clergy, monastics and laity under the jurisdiction of the diocesan courts.
19. The Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall consist of the chairman and at least four members holding the rank of bishop who shall be elected by the Bishops’ Council for a term of four years.
20. The recall of the chairman or a member of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court before time shall be carried out according to the decision of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod with subsequent approval by the Bishops’ Council.
21. The right to appoint an acting chairman or a member of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court in the event of a vacancy shall belong to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod.
22. The competence and procedure of judicial proceedings of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall be determined by the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
23. The rulings of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall be executed after their approval by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod.
In the event of the disagreement of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod with a ruling of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court, the ruling of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod shall come into force.
In this event the case may be referred to the Court of the Bishops’ Council for the final ruling.
24. The Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall exercise the judicial supervision over the activity of the diocesan courts in the forms of actions stipulated by the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
25. The Supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall be financed from the general church budget.
26. The Court of the Bishops’ Council shall be the ecclesiastical court of last resort.
27. The Court of the Bishops’ Council functioning as part of the Local Council shall be the first and the last instance for dogmatic and canonical deviations in the activity of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
28. The legal proceedings shall be carried out by the Bishops’ Council in accordance with the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.
29. The work of the ecclesiastical courts shall be provided by the staff of these courts, which shall be subordinate to their chairmen and shall act on the basis of the Regulations on Ecclesiastical Court.