2.4.1 Procedure for subordinate lodges
Every Masonic trial shall be held according to the following procedure.
Every trial shall be made upon the allegations of a written complaint, only, and shall be held, in the first instance, before a Blue Lodge of which the Mason (hereafter sometimes referred to as the Defendant or the Accused) is a member.
Original jurisdiction of all Masonic trials lies in the Grand Lodge and the trial shall be conducted by the Blue Lodge in the name of the Grand Lodge.
Trials shall be held in an Accused's Mother Lodge (if that lodge is within this Grand Jurisdiction).
The trial of an Accused who has affiliated with one or more lodges in this Grand Jurisdiction and whose Mother Lodge is not in this Grand Jurisdiction shall be held in the lodge within this Grand Jurisdiction with which he has the oldest active affiliation.
A Mason is entitled to have any allegations of unmasonic conduct, Alleged, charged, tried, decided and appealed in a speedy and expeditious manner. If a Mason of any degree is alleged to have committed an offense which rises to the level of unmasonic conduct then the Mason making such allegations (hereafter sometimes referred to as the Accuser) may file a written Allegation, as is provided hereafter, within six (6) months of the time of the alleged occurrence of the conduct complained of or, in the event that the offense is of the type which was concealed or secretive in nature, then within six (6) months from the date on which the Accuser first became aware of the Accused's conduct, whichever shall first occur. Such Allegation shall be directed to the Secretary of the Accused's Blue Lodge in the manner provided hereafter.
If the Allegation is not filed within such period then the Allegation will be deemed to be waived and may never more be alleged against the Accused in any subordinate lodge of this Grand Jurisdiction or in the Grand Lodge.
An Accuser of any degree, believing that an Accused has violated a Landmark of the Craft or the oath or obligation of the degree to which the Accused has been admitted may allege the same to a Blue Lodge of which the defendant is a member.
The Allegation shall be in writing; shall identify the Accused; shall describe in specific detail the alleged unmasonic conduct; shall be over the name, address and signature of the Accuser and shall be directed to the Secretary of the Accused's Blue Lodge.
Upon receipt of the same, the Secretary shall forthwith cause a copy of the same to be delivered to the Junior Warden of the Blue Lodge (hereafter sometimes referred to as the Prosecutor), shall read the Allegation at the lodge's next regular communication or, if no regular communication shall be scheduled within thirty (30) days, then at a Special Communication to be called for that purpose (of which all members shall receive due written notice) unless the Grand Master shall extend the time therefore by Dispensation. The Secretary shall record the Allegation in the records of the Blue Lodge.
Upon receipt of the Allegation from the Secretary, the Prosecutor shall prepare a written Complaint and shall serve a copy of it and a Summons upon the Accused by both regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, at the Accused's last known address as shown in the Blue Lodge's records and at any other address where the Prosecutor believes the Defendant may be found. The original Complaint and Summons (with a Proof of Service attached thereto) shall be filed with the Secretary who shall be the keeper of the records of the proceeding.
The only offense which may be complained of is that an Accused has committed unmasonic conduct. The unmasonic conduct alleged shall be clearly set forth in the Complaint.
Each incident of unmasonic conduct shall be individually set forth in a separately numbered Count of the Complaint.
The Complaint and Summons shall generally take the forms illustrated in Forms A and B herein.
The Accused shall file a written Answer to the Complaint within twenty (20) days after the receipt of the Complaint by him. The Master may enlarge the time to file the Answer upon application for the same.
The Answer shall respond to each allegation of the Complaint by either admitting or denying the same or by responding that the Accused neither admits nor denies the allegation but leaves the prosecutor to his proof thereof.
The Answer may include such other separately numbered Defenses as the Accused may deem appropriate.
Any Defense not raised in the Answer shall be waived.
The original Answer shall be filed with the Secretary with a copy delivered to the Prosecutor.
The Answer shall generally take the form illustrated in Form C herein.
Counterclaims are not permitted. A Counterclaim constitutes an allegation of unmasonic conduct and shall be made and disposed of in the same manner as an original Complaint.
A Masonic trial is a trial in every sense. However, it is not a secular or profane proceeding and it shall be conducted according to such rules of procedure as the Grand Lodge may adopt in its Constitution or General Regulations, as the Blue Lodge may adopt (which are not inconsistent with those adopted by the Grand Lodge) and, absent any rule, as shall be established by the Master. However, whenever there is any doubt as the correct procedure to be followed, then the Rules of Civil Procedure (as may then be in effect in the Superior Court for the State of Rhode Island) may be followed as closely as possible with regard to the conduct of a Masonic trial except that the time periods for and manner of Discovery provided for by such rules shall be subordinate to the rules established herein.
The Junior Warden shall prosecute all Complaints. However, the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials shall, upon application to him by the Junior Warden, appoint a Commissioner of Trials to assist the Junior Warden and to prosecute the Accused in the Junior Warden's place as Counsel to the Junior Warden. However, nothing contained herein shall require the Junior Warden to apply to the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials and the Prosecutor may select any Master Mason to act as his counsel.
In the event that the Junior Warden is the Accused then the Senior Warden shall prosecute the Complaint in his place.
The Accused may defend himself, pro se. However, the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials shall, upon application to him by the Accused appoint a Commissioner of Trials to assist the Accused and to defend the Accused as Counsel to the Defendant. However, nothing contained herein shall require the Accused to apply to the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials and the Accused may select any Master Mason to act as his counsel.
The Master of a Blue Lodge shall conduct the trial and shall act as the Judge thereof. However, the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials shall, upon application to him by the Master appoint a Commissioner of Trials to assist the Master as he shall deem appropriate as Counsel to the Court. However, nothing contained herein shall require the Master to apply to the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials and the Master may select any Master Mason to act as Counsel to the Court.
The Judge shall rule upon motions, upon objections, upon the admissibility of evidence, upon the conduct of the trial and shall be responsible for maintaining the decorum of the proceeding.
In the event that the Master is the Accused then the Senior Warden shall conduct the trial as the Judge thereof in his place.
The Officers shall maintain their stations during a trial. In the event that the Accused is an Officer then the Master shall appoint a Past Master to assume that Officer's station for the duration of the trial only. Such appointment shall be noted in the records of the proceeding.
The Marshal shall assist the Master in maintaining decorum in the lodge room.
The Tiler shall see that the lodge is duly tiled.
The Secretary shall be responsible for guaranteeing that an accurate record of all of the proceeding shall be maintained (either stenographically, by means of audio tape, by means of video recording or by any other means which he may deem appropriate) and shall keep such record of the proceeding as part of the lodge's records until such time as a decision has been rendered and the appeal period has run without the taking of an appeal.
The Secretary shall mark and keep all exhibits safely within his possession and his failure to do so shall constitute unmasonic conduct.
The Secretary shall keep an accurate record of the members attending the trial and each portion thereof and shall be responsible for receiving and recording the verdict from the jury.
The Secretary shall administer an oath to each profane witness prior to the witness testifying. All Masons shall testify upon their honor as such and shall not be required to be placed under oath.
Upon receiving the filing of a Notice of Appeal, the Secretary shall transmit the record on appeal to the Grand Secretary.
A Mason is entitled to a trial by jury. The jury shall consist of all members present of the Blue Lodge within which the trial is being conducted. There must be at least six members to constitute a jury. The Master shall have the authority and the duty to compel members to attend the trial and to act as jurors. The failure of a member to attend a trial and to act as a juror shall constitute unmasonic conduct. All members of a lodge are under a Masonic obligation to attend a trial being held by their Blue Lodge if within their power to do so.
The Secretary shall cause a written notice to be sent to all lodge members advising them of the date, time and place of the trial, of the identity of the Accused and, in a general way, of the substance of the charges.
A Mason must have attended the trial, in its entirely, in order to vote on the Verdict.
The Accused may waive his right to a trial by jury in writing only, in which case the trial shall be conducted by the Master, sitting without a jury.
A Masonic trial is not a criminal trial, although the facts upon which the charge is based may be considered criminal in nature according to civil law.
The Prosecution shall bear the burden of proving its case by clear and convincing evidence, that is that it is highly probable that the alleged act occurred, that the Accused committed the act and that the nature of the act is unmasonic in nature in that it violates the Ancient Landmarks of the Craft or the Oath or Obligation of the degree to which the Accused has been admitted. This is a high burden of proof.
The Accused is innocent until a final Verdict to the contrary is rendered. A final Verdict means a Verdict which either has not been appealed or which has been appealed to the Grand Lodge and the appeal has been ruled on.
Each member of the jury shall be on his honor, as a Mason, to accord the Accused the presumption of innocence and to arrive at a Verdict based only upon the evidence presented and not upon any other information, knowledge or familiarity with the Accused, the Accuser or any of the parties involved in the proceeding. It is almost a certainty that the jurors or some of them may know the parties, or some of them, and may know something of the incident complained. As a result, there is always the danger that the Verdict may be arrived at based upon matters which were not put into evidence at the trial. Nevertheless, each juror must put such things from his mind and do his Masonic duty to arrive at a fair and just Verdict based only upon the evidence introduced at the trial and upon the instructions of the Master as to the applicable Masonic Landmarks or other law which the juror should apply to the facts as he may find them.
If, for whatever reason, a Mason believes that he cannot or should not sit as a juror at a Masonic trial then he may recuse himself in open lodge to the Master and no Mason may inquire into the reason for such recusel. Just as a Mason is under a duty to sit as a juror and to render a fair Verdict, so is he under a duty to refrain from doing so if he believes that to do so would work an injustice to the Accused, the Accuser or the fraternity.
A lodge in which a trial is being conducted shall be duly tiled. Except as otherwise provided herein, the only people who may attend a Masonic trial are the members of the lodge within which the trial is being held; counsel for the Judge, the Prosecutor and the Accused and members of Grand Lodge.
However, as it may be necessary to admit profanes as witnesses, the lodge room shall be in the superintendence of the Senior Warden who shall see that the lodge room is properly tiled and that the profanes do not inadvertently learn any Masonic secret or ritual to which they are not otherwise entitled.
The Accused is entitled to know the full basis of the charge against him. Therefore, the Prosecutor shall deliver to the Accused and to the Secretary a copy of each document, record or thing which he intends to rely upon in the trial of the matter with the service of the Summons and Complaint or as soon thereafter as such material shall come into his possession. He shall deliver a list of the name and address of each witness whom he intends to have testify and the substance of each such witness' expected testimony and copies of all documents, records or things of which he has knowledge (or should reasonably be expected to have knowledge of) which are exculpatory to the Accused including the names and addresses of all persons who have or may have any knowledge of the incident complained of.
The purpose of this discovery is to fully apprise the Accused of the evidence against him and to assist him in learning of any evidence which or witnesses who may be exculpatory of the charge.
In addition to the foregoing, the parties may each make Requests for Admission, propound Interrogatories to be answered under oath and make take advantage of discovery devices which are provided by the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure except that depositions shall not be available.
The Accused shall propound to the Prosecution all further discovery which he believes is necessary to his defense with his Answer.
The Prosecution shall propound all discovery to the Defendant within twenty (20) days of receiving his Answer.
The time for either party to respond to discovery shall be thirty (30) days after the receipt thereof which time period shall not be extended except by written Order of the Master and, only then, upon a showing of great need.
Copies of all discovery propounded and provided and of all Orders shall be delivered to the Secretary who shall file them with the records of the proceeding.
The trial shall be conducted within the lodge room or such other place as the Master shall select.
Written notice of the date, time and place of the trial shall be sent to the Accused, the Accuser, the Prosecution and the brethren of the Blue Lodge by the Secretary at the direction of the Master at least ten (10) days prior to the holding of the trial.
A Mason is entitled to confront his Accuser. Therefore, the Accuser must attend the trial and his failure to do so shall be cause for a complete dismissal of the Complaint, with prejudice.
No Mason should make a frivolous Allegation. Therefore, should the Accuser fail to attend the trial then the Master shall report the same to the Grand Master for such further investigation and action as he shall deem meet in the circumstances.
The lodge room shall be tiled and opened in the highest degree to which the Accuser has attained and the examination of all witnesses must take place in the presence of the Accused and the Accuser.
The trial shall continue from time to time until completed.
Testimony of all Masons shall be taken upon their honor, as such. The testimony of others shall be taken upon their oath or affirmation which shall be administered by the Secretary and shall follow the form then in use in the Superior Court of the State of Rhode Island.
At the completion of the trial the Accused, the Accuser and their counsel, if any, shall retire from the lodge room.
The Master will then put the question to the jury in the following manner: "Is Brother [Accused] guilty of the charge of unmasonic conduct as alleged? Remember, my brethren that white balls acquit and black cubes convict." If there be more than one count of alleged unmasonic conduct then the question will be put and a separate vote taken as to each count.
The jury may freely debate the issue of the Verdict if they wish, subject to the Master maintaining the decorum of the proceeding. Debate shall be limited to a discussion of the evidence presented, the weight or credibility which such evidence should be given and an analysis of whether the Prosecution has presented sufficient credible evidence to carry its burden of proof.
After the jury has had a sufficient time to freely but reasonably debate the issues presented in the sole discretion of the Master, he shall call for the question and the jury shall vote thereon.
The vote of the jury shall be taken by secret ballot. White balls will signify acquittal and black cubes will signify guilt. The ballots will be spread in the same manner as in voting upon a petition for admission. The ballot box will be first shown by the Marshal or other officer to the Master who shall examine it and find it to be empty. All brethren who were present at the trial in its entirety shall vote. It is the duty of a Mason to vote and no brother may abstain from voting. Should the total votes cast be less than or more than the number of jurors then the Master shall declare the ballot to be invalid and the matter shall be reballoted upon the same question without the necessity of the Master reposing the question.
After all the brethren have voted, the ballot box will be presented to the Master for his examination and then to the Secretary who shall spread the ballots out on his desk and count them. He shall write the final tally down and shall hand it to the Master who shall announce the Verdict (but not the tally) in a firm and distinct voice.
Two-thirds (b) of the votes cast are required to declare the Accused guilty.
In announcing the Verdict, the Master will announce it thusly: Take note, my brethren, that you have found Brother [Accused] guilty/innocent of the charge of unmasonic conduct. Take due notice thereof.
It would be unfair to the Accused, the Accuser and the fraternity should the tally ever be made known to any brother other than those whose position in the trial requires that they know of the tally. Therefore, neither the Master nor the Secretary shall announce the final tally nor shall it be recorded in any place other than by signifying that the Verdict was either Guilty or Innocent and no Brother may ever inquire as to the tally nor of any juror as to his vote.
If the trial be held before the Master sitting without a jury then the Master shall deliberate and, upon his deliberations, decide upon a Verdict which he shall announce in open lodge.
If the Accused is found to be guilty then Punishment must be imposed.
The levels of Punishment are: 1) expulsion, 2) indefinite suspension, 3) suspension for a period of six (6) months or less, 4) public censure and 5) private censure.
The vote shall be taken immediately after the rendering of a guilty verdict by a show of hands.
The Master shall put the question of Punishment to the jury beginning, first, with expulsion, then indefinite suspension and so forth to private censure. The jury may freely debate the issue of Punishment subject to the Master maintaining the decorum of the proceeding. Debate shall be limited to a discussion of the appropriate level of punishment and the reason for imposing such level of Punishment.
The Punishments of expulsion or indefinite suspension may only be imposed by a vote of two-thirds (b) of the jury.
The remaining Punishments may be imposed by a bare majority of the jury.
Unmasonic conduct demands Punishment. If the jury has voted on each Punishment at least three (3) times without being able to decide upon an appropriate Punishment and if the Master finds that the jury is deadlocked on the issue of Punishment, then the Master shall impose the Punishment which he deems to be meet in the circumstances and the Punishment shall be deemed to be the Punishment of the jury and shall be recorded as such by the Secretary.
If the trial be held before the Master sitting without a jury then the Master shall deliberate and decide upon the appropriate level of Punishment which he shall then announce in open lodge.
Upon a Verdict and Punishment having been decided upon the Accused and the Accuser shall be returned to the lodge room and the Verdict announced by the Master thusly: Brother [Accused] you have been found guilty/innocent of the charge of unmasonic conduct.
If the Verdict be Guilty, then the Master shall impose the Punishment thusly: In consequence thereof, I hereby [censure you privately/censure you publicly/suspend you from the fraternity for a period of _____ months/suspend you from the fraternity indefinitely/expel you from the fraternity]; take due notice thereof.
The Secretary shall then send notice of the Verdict and the Punishment imposed to the Grand Master and to all other lodges of which the Accused is a member (whether within in this or another Grand Jurisdiction) upon a form to be provided by the Grand Secretary for the same.
Any Accused who is aggrieved by the Verdict or Punishment imposed upon him may appeal either or both to the Grand Lodge. The Appeal must be in writing directed to the Secretary of the Blue Lodge where the trial was held with copies mailed to the Grand Master, the Grand Secretary and the Junior Warden.
The Notice of Appeal should be in the form illustrated by Form D.
The Notice of Appeal must be received by the Secretary within ten (10) days from the date that the Verdict and Punishment was announced in open lodge by the Master. Appeal from any Verdict or Punishment which is not timely filed with the Secretary is waived and the Verdict and Punishment shall be final.
Upon receipt of the Notice of Appeal, the Secretary shall forthwith transmit an attested record of the proceedings which shall contain the Complaint, the Answer, copies of all discovery provided by either party, any Exhibits admitted as full exhibits, the report of the Verdict and Punishment and the transcript or recording of the proceeding to the Grand Secretary.
The Grand Lodge is the ultimate arbiter of appeals and it may refer the matter to the Chairman of the Commissioners on Trials to review the record on appeal and to make a recommendation on the appeal to the Grand Lodge. If the Grand Lodge is not in session then the Grand Master may make such referral.
Upon referral the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials shall review the record on appeal and shall present a written recommendation as to what action, if any, the Grand Lodge should take as to the appeal to the Grand Lodge through the Grand Master, with a copy to the Grand Secretary.
Such recommendation shall be both confidential in nature and advisory only. No member of Grand Lodge shall presume to reveal or discuss it other than in Grand Lodge and not to any party to the proceeding at any time. Failure to maintain the confidentiality of the Chairman of the Commissioners of Trials' recommendation shall constitute unmasonic conduct.
The Grand Lodge may affirm, reverse or modify the Verdict, the Punishment or either of the subordinate lodge. It may remand the matter back to the subordinate lodge for a trial de novo or for reconsideration of the Punishment as being either too lenient or too severe.
The Grand Lodge may, on its own motion or on the motion of the Accused, assume original jurisdiction of the case on appeal and may retry the case either all or in part, as if it had never been tried previously, if it believes that an injustice has been visited upon the Accused or the fraternity as a result of the conduct of the proceeding before the subordinate lodge. In such case, the trial shall be conducted in accordance with these Regulations as much as possible.
In the event that a subordinate lodge has failed to initiate judicial proceedings within sixty (60) days after receipt of an allegation, then the Grand Lodge may assume original jurisdiction of the case on its own motion.
Masonic Law may be found in its Ancient Landmarks, both written and Unwritten. Profane or secular law may be relied upon in the conduct of a Masonic trial or appeal for guidance but is not binding upon a Masonic court, although it may be instructive to the Masonic court and may assist it in its deliberations.
Provided, however, that whenever the basis of the charge of unmasonic conduct is based upon the Accused's conviction of a crime under civil law then that conviction must be recognized as such by the civil courts. If it is not so recognized, then the Masonic trial must be had in the first instance on the alleged misconduct and may not be proven by the mere introduction of a certified copy of the civil court verdict.
In the event of doubt as to the procedure or law to apply to a particular fact pattern, reference may be made to and reliance placed upon A Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence, Illustrating the Written and Unwritten Laws of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey, M.D. (sometimes frequently referred to as Mackey on Masonic Jurisprudence).