Can. 1501 A judge cannot investigate any case unless a plea, drawn up in accordance
with canon law, is submitted either by a person whose interest is involved, or by the
promoter of justice.
Can. 1502 A person who wishes to sue another must present a petition to a judge who is
lawfully competent. In this petition the matter in dispute is to be set out and the
intervention of the judge requested.
Can. 1503 ß1 A judge can admit an oral plea whenever the plaintiff is impeded from
presenting a petition or when the case can be easily investigated and is of minor
ß2 In both cases, however, the judge is to direct a notary to record the matter in
writing. This written record is to be read to, and approved by, the plaintiff, and it
takes the place of a petition written by the plaintiff as far as all effects of law are
Can. 1504 The petition by which a suit is introduced must:
1ƒ state the judge before whom the case is being introduced, what is being sought and
from whom it is being sought;
2ƒ indicate on what right the plaintiff bases the case and, at least in general terms,
the facts and evidence to be submitted in support of the allegations made;
3ƒ be signed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff's procurator, and bear the day, the
month and the year, as well as the address at which the plaintiff or the procurator
resides, or at which they say they reside for the purpose of receiving the acts;
4ƒ indicate the domicile or quasi‚domicile of the respondent.
Can. 1505 ß1 Once he has satisfied himself that the matter is within his competence
and the plaintiff has the right to stand before the court, the sole judge, or the
presiding judge of a collegiate tribunal, must as soon as possible by his decree either
admit or reject the petition.
ß2 A petition can be rejected only if:
1ƒ the judge or the tribunal is not legally competent;
2ƒ it is established beyond doubt that the plaintiff lacks the right to stand before
3ƒ the provisions of can. 1504 nn. 1‚3 have not been observed
4ƒ it is certainly clear from the petition that the plea lacks any foundation, and
that there is no possibility that a foundation will emerge from a process.
ß3 If a petition has been rejected by reason of defects which can be corrected, the
plaintiff can draw up a new petition correctly and present it again to the same judge.
ß4 A party is always entitled, within ten canonical days, to have recourse, based upon
stated reasons, against the rejection of a petition. This recourse is to be made either to
the tribunal of appeal or, if the petition was rejected by the presiding judge, to the
collegiate tribunal. A question of rejection is to be determined with maximum expedition.
Can. 1506 If within a month of the presentation of a petition, the judge has not issued
a decree admitting or rejecting it in accordance with can. 1505, the interested party can
insist that the judge perform his duty. If, notwithstanding this, the judge does not
respond within ten days of the party's request, the petition is to be taken as having been
Can. 1507 ß1 In the decree by which a plaintiff's petition is admitted, the judge or
the presiding judge must call or summon the other parties to court to effect the joinder
of the issue; he must prescribe whether, in order to agree the point at issue, they are to
reply in writing or to appear before him. If, from their written replies, he perceives the
need to convene the parties, he can determine this by a new decree.
ß2 If a petition is deemed admitted in accordance with the provisions of can. 1506,
the decree of summons to the trial must be issued within twenty days of the request of
which that canon speaks.
ß3 If the litigants in fact present themselves before the judge to pursue the case,
there is no need for a summons; the notary, however, is to record in the acts that the
parties were present at the trial.
Can. 1508 ß1 The decree of summons to the trial must be notified at once to the
respondent, and at the same time to any others who are obliged to appear.
ß2 The petition introducing the suit is to be attached to the summons, unless for
grave reasons the judge considers that the petition is not to be communicated to the other
party before he or she gives evidence.
ß3 If a suit is brought against a person who does not have the free exercise of
personal rights, or the free administration of the matters in dispute, the summons is to
be notified to, as the case may be, the guardian, the curator, the special procurator, or
the one who according to law is obliged to undertake legal proceedings in the name of such
Can. 1509 ß1 With due regard to the norms laid down by particular law, the
notification of summonses, decrees, judgments and other judicial acts is to be done by
means of the public postal service, or by some other particularly secure means.
ß2 The fact and the manner of notification must be shown in the acts.
Can. 1510 A respondent who refuses to accept a document of summons, or who circumvents
the delivery of a summons, is to be regarded as lawfully summoned.
Can. 1511 Without prejudice to the provision of can. 1507 ß3, if a summons has not
been lawfully communicated, the acts of the process are null.
Can. 1512 Once a summons has been lawfully communicated, or the parties have presented
themselves before a judge to pursue the case:
1ƒ the matter ceases to be a neutral one;
2ƒ the case becomes that of the judge or of the tribunal, in other respects lawfully
competent, before whom the action was brought;
3ƒ the jurisdiction of a delegated judge is established in such a way that it does not
lapse on the expiry of the authority of the person who delegated;
4ƒ prescription is interrupted, unless otherwise provided;
5ƒ the suit begins to be a pending one, and therefore the principle immediately
applies 'while a suit is pending, no new element is to be introduced'.
Can. 1513 ß1 The joinder of the issue occurs when the terms of the controversy, as
derived from the pleas and the replies of the parties, are determined by a decree of the
ß2 The pleas and the replies of the parties may be expressed not only in the petition
introducing the suit, but also either in the response to the summons, or in statements
made orally before the judge. In more difficult cases, however, the parties are to be
convened by the judge, so as to agree the question or questions to which the judgment
ß3 The decree of the judge is to be notified to the parties. Unless they have already
agreed on the terms, they may within ten days have recourse to the same judge to request
that the decree be altered. This question, however, is to be decided with maximum
expedition by a decree of the judge.
Can. 1514 Once determined, the terms of the controversy cannot validly be altered
except by a new decree, issued for a grave reason, at the request of the party, and after
the other parties have been consulted and their observations considered.
Can. 1515 Once the joinder of the issue has occurred, the possessor of another's
property ceases to be in good faith. If, therefore, the judgment is that he or she return
the property, the possessor must return also any profits accruing from the date of the
joinder, and must compensate for damages.
Can. 1516 Once the joinder of the issue has occurred, the judge is to prescribe an
appropriate time within which the parties are to present and to complete the evidence.
Can. 1517 The trial of the issue is initiated by the summons. It is concluded not only
by the pronouncement of the definitive judgment, but also by other means determined by
Can. 1518 If a litigant dies, or undergoes a change in status, or ceases from the
office in virtue of which he or she was acting:
1ƒ if the case has not yet been concluded, the trial is suspended until the heir of
the deceased, or the successor, or a person whose interest is involved, resumes the suit
2ƒ if the case has been concluded, the judge must proceed to the remaining steps of the
case, having first summoned the procurator, if there is one, or else the heir or the
successor of the deceased.
Can. 1519 ß1 If the guardian or the curator or the procurator required in accordance
with can. 1481 ßß1 and 3, ceases from office, the trial is suspended for the time being.
ß2 However, the judge is to appoint another guardian or curator as soon as possible.
He can appoint a procurator ad litem if the party has neglected to do so within the brief
time prescribed by the judge himself.
Can. 1520 If over a period of six months, no procedural act is performed by the
parties, and they have not been impeded from doing so, the trial is abated. Particular law
may prescribe other time limits for abatement.
Can. 1521 Abatement takes effect by virtue of the law itself, and it is effective
against everyone, even minors and those equivalent to minors; moreover, it must be
declared even ex officio. This, however, is without prejudice to the right to claim
compensation against those guardians, curators, administrators and procurators who have
not proved that they were without fault.
Can. 1522 Abatement extinguishes the acts of the process, but not the acts of the case.
The acts of the case may indeed be employed in another instance, provided the case is
between the same persons and about the same matter. As far as those outside the case are
concerned, however these acts have no standing other than as documents.
Can. 1523 When a trial has been abated, the litigants are to bear the expenses which
each has incurred.
Can. 1524 ß1 The plaintiff may renounce a trial at any stage or at any grade.
Likewise, both the plaintiff and the respondent may renounce the acts of the process
either in whole or only in part.
ß2 To renounce the trial of an issue, guardians and administrators of juridical
persons must have the advice or the consent of those whose agreement is required to
conduct negotiations which exceed the limits of ordinary administration.
ß3 To be valid, a renunciation must be in writing, and must be signed either by the
party, or by a procurator who has been given a special mandate for this purpose; it must
be communicated to the other party, who must accept or at least not oppose it; and it must
be admitted by the judge.
Can. 1525 Once a renunciation has been admitted by the judge, it has the same effects
for the acts which have been renounced as has an abatement of the trial. Likewise, it
obliges the person renouncing to pay the expenses of those acts which have been renounced.
Can. 1526 ß1 The onus of proof rests upon the person who makes an allegation.
ß2 The following matters do not require proof:
1ƒ matters which are presumed by the law itself;
2ƒ facts alleged by one of the litigants and admitted by the other, unless their proof
is nevertheless required either by law or by the judge.
Can. 1527 ß1 Any type of proof which seems useful for the investigation of the case
and is lawful, may be admitted.
ß2 If a party submits that proof, which has been rejected by the judge, should be
admitted, the judge is to determine the matter with maximum expedition.
Can. 1528 If a party or a witness refuses to testify before the judge, that person may
lawfully be heard by another, even a lay person, appointed by the judge, or asked to make
a declaration either before a public notary or in any other lawful manner.
Can. 1529 Unless there is a grave reason, the judge is not to proceed to collect the
proofs before the joinder of the issue.
Can. 1530 The judge may always question the parties the more closely to elicit the
truth. He must do so if requested by one of the parties, or in order to prove a fact which
the public interest requires to be placed beyond doubt.
Can. 1531 ß1 A party who is lawfully questioned is obliged to respond and to tell the
ß2 If a party has refused to reply, it is for the judge to evaluate what, as far as
the proof of the facts is concerned, can be deduced therefrom.
Can. 1532 Unless a grave reason suggests otherwise, in cases in which the public good
is at stake the judge is to administer to the parties an oath that they will tell the
truth, or at least that what they have said is the truth. In other cases, it is left to
the prudent discretion of the judge to determine whether an oath is to be administered.
Can. 1533 The parties, the promoter of justice and the defender of the bond may submit
to the judge propositions upon which a party is to be questioned.
Can. 1534 The provisions of canon. 15482, n. 1, 1552 and 1558‚1565 concerning witnesses
are to be observed, with the appropriate qualifications, in the questioning of the
Can. 1535 A judicial confession is an assertion of fact against oneself, concerning a
matter relevant to the trial, which is made by a party before a judge who is legally
competent; this is so whether the assertion is made in writing or orally, whether
spontaneously or in response to the judge's questioning.
Can. 1536 ß1 In a private matter and where the public good is not at stake, a judicial
confession of one party relieves the other parties of the onus of proof.
ß2 In cases which concern the public good, however, a judicial confession, and
declarations by the parties which are not confessions, can have a probative value that is
to be weighed by the judge in association with the other circumstances of the case, but
the force of full proof cannot be attributed to them unless there are other elements which
wholly corroborate them.
Can. 1537 It is for the judge, having considered all the circumstances, to evaluate the
weight to be given to an extra‚judicial confession which is introduced into the trial.
Can. 1538 A confession, or any other declaration of a party, is devoid of all force if
clearly shown to be based on an error of fact or to have been extracted by force or grave
Can. 1539 In every type of trial documentary proof is admitted, whether the documents
be public or private.
Can. 1540 ß1 Public ecclesiastical documents are those which an official person draws
up in the exercise of his or her function in the Church and in which the formalities
required by law have been observed.
ß2 Public civil documents are those which are legally regarded as such in accordance
with the laws of each place.
ß3 All other documents are private.
Can. 1541 Unless it is otherwise established by contrary and clear arguments, public
documents constitute acceptable evidence of those matters which are directly and
principally affirmed in them.
Can. 1542 A private document, whether acknowledged by a party or admitted by a judge,
has the same probative force as an extra‚judicial confession, against its author or the
person who has signed it and against persons whose case rests on that of the author or
signatory. Against others it has the same force as have declarations by the parties which
are not confessions, in accordance with can. 1536 ß2.
Can. 1543 If documents are shown to have been erased, amended, falsified or otherwise
tampered with, it is for the judge to evaluate to what extent, if any, they are to be
Can. 1544 Documents do not have probative force at a trial unless they are submitted in
original form or in authentic copy and are lodged in the office of the tribunal, so that
they may be inspected by the judge and by the opposing party.
Can. 1545 The judge can direct that a document common to each of the parties is to be
submitted in the process.
Can. 1546 ß1 No one is obliged to exhibit documents, even if they are common, which
cannot be communicated without danger of the harm mentioned in can. 1548 ß2, n. 2, or
without the danger of violating a secret which is to be observed.
ß2 If, however, at least an extract from a document can be transcribed and submitted
in copy without the disadvantages mentioned, the judge can direct that it be produced in
Can. 1547 Proof by means of witnesses is admitted in all cases, under the direction of
Can. 1548 ß1 Witnesses must tell the truth to a judge who lawfully questions them.
ß2 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1550 ß2, n. 2 the following are
exempted from the obligation of replying to questions:
1ƒ clerics, in those matters revealed to them by reason of their sacred ministry;
civil officials, doctors, midwives, advocates, notaries and others who are bound by the
secret of their office, even on the ground of having offered advice, in respect of matters
subject to this secret;
2ƒ those who fear that, as a result of giving evidence, a loss of reputation,
dangerous harassment or some other grave evil will arise for themselves, their spouses, or
those related to them by consanguinity or affinity.
Can. 1549 Everyone can be a witness, unless expressly excluded, whether wholly or in
part, by the law.
Can. 1550 ß1 Minors under the age of fourteen years and those who are of feeble mind
are not admitted to give evidence. They can, however, be heard if the judge declares by a
decree that it would be appropriate to do so.
ß2 The following are deemed incapable of being witnesses:
1ƒ the parties in the case or those who appear at the trial in the name of the
parties; the judge and his assistant; the advocate and those others who in the same case
assist or have assisted the parties;
2ƒ priests, in respect of everything which has become known to them in sacramental
confession, even if the penitent has asked that these things be made known. Moreover,
anything that may in any way have been heard by anyone on the occasion of confession,
cannot be accepted even as an indication of the truth.
Can. 1551 A party who has introduced a witness may forego the examination of that
witness, but the opposing party may ask that the witness nevertheless be examined.
Can. 1552 ß1 When proof by means of witnesses is sought, the names and addresses of
the witnesses are to be communicated to the tribunal.
ß2 The propositions on which the interrogation of the witnesses is requested, are to
be submitted within the time limit determined by the judge; otherwise, the request is to
be deemed abandoned.
Can. 1553 It is for the judge to curb an excessive number of witnesses.
Can. 1554 Before witnesses are examined, their names are to be communicated to the
parties. If, in the prudent opinion of the judge, this cannot be done without great
difficulty, it is to be done at least before the publication of the evidence.
Can. 1555 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1550, a party may request that a
witness be excluded, provided a just reason for exclusion is established before the
witness is examined.
Can. 1556 The summons of a witness is effected by a decree of the judge lawfully
notified to the witness.
Can. 1557 A properly summoned witness is to appear, or to make known to the judge the
reason for being absent.
Can. 1558 ß1 Witnesses are to be examined at the office of the tribunal unless the
judge deems otherwise.
ß2 Cardinals, Patriarchs, Bishops, and those who in their own civil law enjoy a
similar favor, are to be heard at the place selected by themselves.
ß3 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1418 and 1469 ß2, the judge is to
decide where witnesses are to be heard for whom, by reason of distance, illness or other
impediment, it is impossible or difficult to come to the office of the tribunal.
Can. 1559 The parties cannot be present at the examination of the witnesses unless,
especially when there is question of a private interest, the judge has determined that
they are to be admitted. Their advocates or procurators, however, may attend, unless by
reason of the circumstances of matter and persons, the judge has determined that the
proceedings are to be in secret.
Can. 1560 ß1 The witnesses are to be examined individually and separately.
ß2 If in a grave matter the witnesses disagree either among themselves or with one of
the parties, the judge may arrange for those who differ to meet or to confront one
another, but must, in so far as possible, eliminate discord and scandal.
Can. 1561 The examination of a witness is conducted by the judge, or by his delegate or
an auditor, who is to be attended by a notary. Accordingly, unless particular law provides
otherwise, if the parties or the promoter of justice or the defender of the bond or the
advocates who are present at the hearing have additional questions to put to the witness,
they are to propose these not to the witness, but to the judge, or to the one who is
taking the judge's place, so that he or she may put them.
Can. 1562 ß1 The judge is to remind the witness of the grave obligation to tell the
whole truth and nothing but the truth.
ß2 The judge is to administer an oath to the witness in accordance with can. 1532. If,
however, a witness refuses to take an oath, he or she is to be heard unsworn.
Can. 1563 The judge is first of all to establish the identity of the witness. The
relationship which the witness has with the parties is to be probed, and when specific
questions concerning the case are asked of the witness enquiry is to be made into the
sources of his or her knowledge and the precise time the witness came to know the matters
which are asserted.
Can. 1564 The questions are to be brief, and appropriate to the understanding of the
person being examined. They are not to encompass a number of matters at the same time, nor
be captious or deceptive. They are not to be leading questions, nor give any form of
offence. They are to be relevant to the case in question.
Can. 1565 ß1 The questions are not to be made known in advance to the witnesses.
ß2 If, however, the matters about which evidence is to be given are so remote in
memory that they cannot be affirmed with certainty unless they are recalled beforehand,
the judge may, if he thinks this can safely be done, advise the witness in advance about
certain aspects of the matter.
Can. 1566 The witnesses are to give evidence orally. They are not to read from a
script, except where there is a question of calculations or accounts; in this case, they
may consult notes which they have brought with them.
Can. 1567 ß1 The replies are to be written down at once by the notary. The record must
show the very words of the evidence given, at least in what concerns those things which
bear directly on the matter of the trial.
ß2 The use of a tape‚recorder is allowed, provided the replies are subsequently
committed to writing and, if possible, signed by the deponents.
Can. 1568 The notary is to mention in the acts whether the oath was taken or excused or
refused; who were present, parties and others; the questions added ex officio; and in
general, everything worthy of record which may have occurred while the witnesses were
Can. 1569 ß1 At the conclusion of the examination, the record of the evidence, either
as written down by the notary or as played back from the tape‚recording, must be
communicated to the witness, who is to be given the opportunity of adding to, omitting
from, correcting or varying it.
ß2 Finally, the witness, the judge and the notary must sign the record.
Can. 1570 Before the acts or the testimony are published, witnesses, even though
already examined, may be called for re‚examination, either at the request of a party or
ex officio. This may be done if the judge considers it either necessary or useful,
provided there is no danger whatever of collusion or of inducement.
Can. 1571 Witnesses must be refunded both the expenses they incurred and the losses
they sustained by reason of their giving evidence, in accordance with the equitable
assessment of the judge.
Can. 1572 In weighing evidence the judge may, if it is necessary, seek testimonial
letters, and is to take into account:
1ƒ the condition and uprightness of the witness
2ƒ whether the knowledge was acquired at first hand, particularly if it was something
seen or heard personally, or whether it was opinion, rumor or hearsay;
3ƒ whether the witness is constant and consistent, or varies, is uncertain or
4ƒ whether there is corroboration of the testimony, and whether it is confirmed or not
by other items of evidence.
Can. 1573 The deposition of one witness cannot amount to full proof, unless the witness
is a qualified one who gives evidence on matters carried out in an official capacity, or
unless the circumstances of persons and things persuade otherwise.
Can. 1574 The services of experts are to be used whenever, by a provision of the law or
of the judge, their study and opinion, based upon their art or science, are required to
establish some fact or to ascertain the true nature of some matter.
Can. 1575 It is for the judge, after hearing the opinions or suggestions of the
parties, to appoint the experts or, if such is the case, to accept reports already made by
Can. 1576 Experts can be excluded or objected to for the same reasons as witnesses.
Can. 1577 ß1 The judge in his decree must define the specific terms of reference to be
considered in the expert's task, taking into account whatever may have been gathered from
ß2 The expert is to be given the acts of the case, and any documents and other
material needed for the proper and faithful discharge of his or her duty.
ß3 The judge, after discussion with the expert, is to determine a time for the
completion of the examination and the submission of the report.
Can. 1578 ß1 Each expert is to complete a report distinct from that of the others,
unless the judge orders that one report be drawn up and signed by all of them. In this
case, differences of opinion, if there are such, are to be faithfully noted.
ß2 Experts must clearly indicate the documents or other appropriate means by which
they have verified the identity of persons, places or things. They are also to state the
manner and method followed in fulfilling the task assigned to them, and the principal
arguments upon which their conclusions are based.
ß3 If necessary, the expert may be summoned by the judge to supply further
Can. 1579 ß1 The judge is to weigh carefully not only the expert's conclusions, even
when they agree, but also all the other circumstances of the case.
ß2 When he is giving the reasons for his decision, the judge must state on what
grounds he accepts or rejects the conclusions of the experts.
Can. 1580 Experts are to be paid their expenses and honorariums. These are to be
determined by the judge in a proper and equitable manner, with due observance of
Can. 1581 ß1 Parties can designate their own experts, to be approved by the judge.
ß2 If the judge admits them, these experts can inspect the acts of the case, in so far
as required for the discharge of their duty, and can be present when the appointed experts
fulfill their role. They can always submit their reports.
Can. 1582 If, in order to decide the case, the judge considers it opportune to visit
some place, or inspect some thing, he is to set this out in a decree. After he has heard
the parties, the decree is to give a brief description of what is to be made available for
Can. 1583 After the inspection has been carried out, a document concerning it is to be
Can. 1584 A presumption is a probable conjecture about something which is uncertain.
Presumptions of law are those stated in the law; human presumptions are those made by a
Can. 1585 A person with a presumption of law in his or her favor is freed from the
onus of proof, which then falls on the other party.
Can. 1586 The judge is not to make presumptions which are not stated in the law, other
than on the basis of a certain and determinate fact directly connected to the matter in
Can. 1587 An incidental matter arises when, after the case has begun by the summons, a
question is proposed which, even though not expressly raised in the petition which
introduced the case, is yet so relevant to the case that it needs to be settled before the
Can. 1588 An incidental matter is proposed before the judge who is competent to decide
the principal case. It is raised in writing or orally, indicating the connection between
it and the principal case.
Can. 1589 ß1 When the judge has received the petition and heard the parties, he is to
decide with maximum expedition whether the proposed incidental matter has a foundation in,
and a connection with, the principal matter, or whether it is to be rejected from the
outset. If he admits it he must decide whether it is of such gravity that it needs to be
determined by an interlocutory judgment or by a decree.
ß2 If, however, he concludes that the incidental matter is not to be decided before
the definitive judgment, he is to determine that account be taken of it when the
principal matter is decided.
Can. 1590 ß1 If the incidental matter is to be decided by judgment, the norms for a
contentious oral process are to be observed unless, because of the gravity of the issue,
the judge deems otherwise.
ß2 If it is to be decided by decree, the tribunal can entrust the matter to an auditor
or to the presiding judge.
Can. 1591 Before the principal matter is concluded, the judge or the tribunal may for a
just reason revoke or alter an interlocutory judgment or decree. This can be done either
at the request of a party or ex officio by the judge after he has heard the parties.
Can. 1592 ß1 If a respondent is summoned but does not appear, and either does not
offer an adequate excuse for absence or has not replied in accordance with can. 1507 ß1,
the judge is to declare the person absent from the process, and decree that the case is to
proceed to the definitive judgment and to its execution, with due observance of the
ß2 Before issuing the decree mentioned in ß1, the judge must make sure, if necessary
by means of another summons, that a lawful summons did reach the respondent within the
Can. 1593 ß1 If the respondent thereafter appears before the judge, or replies before
the trial is concluded, he or she can bring forward conclusions and proofs, without
prejudice to the provisions of can. 1600; the judge is to take care, however, that the
process is not deliberately prolonged by lengthy and unnecessary delays.
ß2 Even if the respondent has neither appeared nor given a reply before the case is
decided, he or she can challenge the judgment; if the person can show that there was a
just reason for being absent, and that there was no fault involved in not intimating this
earlier, a plaint of nullity can be lodged.
Can. 1594 If the plaintiff does not appear on the day and at the hour arranged for the
joinder of the issue, and does not offer a suitable excuse:
1ƒ the judge is to summon the plaintiff again;
2ƒ if the plaintiff does not obey the new summons, it is presumed that the case has
been abandoned in accordance with canon. 1524‚‚1525;
3ƒ if the plaintiff should want to intervene at a subsequent stage in the process, the
provisions of can. 1593 are to be observed.
Can. 1595 ß1 A party, whether plaintiff or respondent, who is absent from the trial,
and who does not establish the existence of a just impediment, is bound to pay the
expenses which have been incurred in the case because of this absence, and also, if need
be, to indemnify the other party.
ß2 If both the plaintiff and the respondent were absent from the trial, they are
jointly bound to pay the expenses of the case.
Can. 1596 ß1 Any person with a legitimate interest can be allowed to intervene in a
case in any instance of the suit, either as a party defending his or her own right or, in
an accessory role, to help one of the litigants.
ß2 To be admitted, however, the person must, before the conclusion of the case,
produce to the judge a petition which briefly establishes the right to intervene.
ß3 A person who intervenes in a case is to be admitted at that stage which the case
has reached. If the case has reached the evidence stage, a brief and peremptory time limit
is to be assigned within which to bring forward evidence.
Can. 1597 A third party whose intervention is seen to be necessary must be called into
the case by the judge, after he has consulted the parties.
Can. 1598 ß1 When the evidence has been assembled, the judge must, under pain of
nullity, by a decree permit the parties and their advocates to inspect at the tribunal
office those acts which are not yet known to them. Indeed, if the advocates so request, a
copy of the acts can be given to them. In cases which concern the public good, however,
the judge can decide that, in order to avoid very serious dangers, some part or parts of
the acts are not to be shown to anyone; he must take care, however, that the right of
defense always remains intact.
ß2 To complete the evidence, the parties can propose other items of proof to the
judge. When these have been assembled the judge can, if he deems it appropriate, again
issue a decree as in ß1.
Can. 1599 ß1 When everything concerned with the production of evidence has been
completed, the conclusion of the case is reached.
ß2 This conclusion occurs when the parties declare that they have nothing further to
add, or when the canonical time allotted by the judge for the production of evidence has
elapsed, or when the judge declares that he considers the case to be sufficiently
ß3 By whichever way the case has come to its conclusion, the judge is to issue a
decree declaring that it is concluded.
Can. 1600 Only in the following situations can the judge, after the conclusion of the
case, still recall earlier witnesses or call new ones, or make provision for other
evidence not previously requested:
1ƒ in cases in which only the private good of the parties is involved if all the
2ƒ in other cases, provided that the parties have been consulted, that a grave reason
exists, and that all danger of fraud or subornation is removed;
3ƒ in all cases, whenever it is probable that, unless new evidence is admitted, the
judgment will be unjust for any of the reasons mentioned in can. 1645 ß2, nn. 1‚3.
ß2 The judge can, however, command or permit the presentation of a document which,
even without fault of the interested party, could not be presented earlier.
ß3 New evidence is to be published according to can. 1598 ß1.
Can. 1601 When the case has been concluded, the judge is to determine a suitable period
of time for the presentation of pleadings and observations.
Can. 1602 ß1 Pleadings and observations are to be in writing unless the judge, with
the consent of the parties, considers it sufficient to have a discussion before the
tribunal in session.
ß2 If the pleadings and the principal documents are to be printed, the prior
permission of the judge is required, and the obligation of secrecy, where it exists, is
still to be observed.
ß3 The directions of the tribunal are to be observed in questions concerning the
length of the pleadings, the number of copies and other similar matters.
Can. 1603 ß1 When the pleadings and observations have been exchanged, each party can
make reply within a brief period of time determined by the judge.
ß2 This right is given to the parties once only, unless for a grave reason the judge
considers that the right to a second reply is to be given; if this right is given to one
party, it is to be considered as given to the other as well.
ß3 The promoter of justice and the defender of the bond have the right to respond to
every reply of the parties.
Can. 1604 ß1 It is absolutely forbidden that any information given to the judge by the
parties or the advocates, or by any other persons, be excluded from the acts of the case.
ß2 If the pleadings in the case are made in writing, the judge may, in order to
clarify any outstanding issues, order that a moderate oral discussion be held before the
tribunal in session.
Can. 1605 The notary is to be present at the oral discussion mentioned in canon. 1602
ß1 and 1604 ß2, so that, if the judge so orders, or the parties so request and the judge
consents, the notary can immediately make a written report of what has been discussed and
Can. 1606 If the parties neglect to prepare their pleadings within the time allotted to
them, or if they entrust themselves to the knowledge and conscience of the judge, and if
at the same time the judge perceives the matter quite clearly from the acts and the
proofs, he can pronounce judgment at once. He must, however, seek the observations of the
promoter of justice and the defender of the bond if they were engaged in the trial.
Can. 1607 A principal case which has been dealt with in judicial fashion is decided by
the judge by a definitive judgment. An incidental matter is decided by an interlocutory
judgment, without prejudice to can. 1589
Can. 1608 ß1 To give any judgment, the judge must have in his mind moral certainty
about the matter to be decided in the judgment.
ß2 The judge must derive this certainty from the acts of the case and from the proofs.
ß3 The judge must conscientiously weigh the evidence, with due regard for the
provisions of law about the efficacy of certain evidence.
ß4 A judge who cannot arrive at such certainty is to pronounce that the right of the
plaintiff is not established and is to find for the respondent except in a case which
enjoys the favor of law, when he is to pronounce in its favor.
Can. 1609 ß1 The presiding judge of a collegiate tribunal decides the day and time
when it is to meet for discussion. Unless a special reason requires otherwise, the meeting
is to be at the tribunal office.
ß2 On the day appointed for the meeting, the individual judges are to bring their
written conclusions on the merits of the case, with the reasons in law and in fact for
reaching their conclusions. These conclusions are to be added to the acts of the case and
to be kept in secrecy.
ß3 Having invoked the divine Name, they are to offer their conclusions in order,
beginning always with the 'ponens' or 'relator' in the case, and then in order of
precedence. Under the chairmanship of the presiding judge, they are to hold their
discussion principally with a view to establishing what is to be stated in the dispositive
part of the judgment.
ß4 In the discussion, each one is permitted to depart from an original conclusion. A
judge who does not wish to accede to the decision of the others can demand that, if there
is an appeal, his or her conclusions be forwarded to the higher tribunal.
ß5 If the judges do not wish, or are unable, to reach a decision in the first
discussion, they can defer their decision to another meeting, but not beyond one week,
unless the instruction of the case has to be completed in accordance with can. 1600.
Can. 1610 ß1 If there is a sole judge, he will draw up the judgment.
ß2 In a collegiate tribunal, the 'ponens' or 'relator' is to draw up the judgment,
using as reasons those tendered by the individual judges in their discussion, unless the
reasons to be preferred have been defined by a majority of the judges. The judgment
then be submitted to the individual judges for their approval.
ß3 The judgment is to be issued not later than one month from the day on which the
case was decided, unless in a collegiate tribunal the judges have for grave reasons
stipulated a longer time.
Can. 1611 The judgment must:
1ƒ define the controversy raised before the tribunal, giving appropriate answers to
the individual questions;
2ƒ determine the obligations of the parties arising from the trial and the manner in
which these are to be fulfilled
3ƒ set out the reasons or motives, both in law and in fact, upon which the dispositive
part of the judgment is based;
4ƒ apportion the expenses of the suit.
Can. 1612 ß1 The judgment, after the invocation of the divine Name must state in
order the judge or tribunal, and the plaintiff, respondent and procurator, with names and
domiciles duly indicated. It is also to name the promoter of justice and the defender of
the bond if they were engaged in the trial.
ß2 It must then briefly set out the alleged facts, with the conclusions of the parties
and the formulation of the doubt.
ß3 Then follows the dispositive part of the judgment, prefaced by the reasons which
ß4 It ends with the date and the place in which it was given, and with the signature
of the judge or, in the case of a collegiate tribunal, of all the judges, and of the
Can. 1613 The rules set out above for a definitive judgment are to be adapted also to
Can. 1614 A judgment is to be published as soon as possible, with an indication of the
ways in which it can be challenged. Before publication it has no effect, even if the
dispositive part may, with the permission of the judge, have been notified to the parties.
Can. 1615 The publication or notification of the judgment can be effected by giving a
copy of the judgment to the parties or to their procurators, or by sending them a copy of
it in accordance with can. 1509.
Can. 1616 ß1 A judgment must be corrected or completed by the tribunal which gave it
if, in the text of a judgment, there is an error in calculations, or a material error in
the transcription of either the dispositive part or the presentation of the facts or the
pleadings of the parties, or if any of the items required by can. 1612, ß4 are omitted.
This is to be done either at the request of the parties or ex officio, but always after
having consulted the parties and by a decree appended to the foot of the judgment.
ß2 If one party is opposed, an incidental question is to be decided by a decree.
Can. 1617 Other pronouncements of a judge apart from the judgment, are decrees. If
they are more than mere directions about procedure, they have no effect unless they give
at least a summary of their reasons or refer to motives expressed in another act.
Can. 1618 An interlocutory judgment or a decree has the force of a definitive
judgment if, in respect of at least one of the parties, it prevents the trial, or brings
to an end the trial itself or any instance of it.
Can. 1619 Without prejudice to canon. 1622 and 1623, whenever a case concerns the good
of private individuals, acts which are null with a nullity established by positive law are
validated by the judgment itself, if the nullity was known to the party making the plaint
and was not raised with the judge before the judgment.
Can. 1620 A judgment is null with a nullity which cannot be remedied,
1ƒ it was given by a judge who was absolutely non‚competent;
2ƒ it was given by a person who has no power to judge in the tribunal in which the
case was decided;
3ƒ the judge was compelled by force or grave fear to deliver judgment;
4ƒ the trial took place without the judicial plea mentioned in can. 1501, or was not
brought against some party as respondent;
5ƒ it was given between parties of whom at least one has no right to stand before the
6ƒ someone acted in another's name without a lawful mandate;
7ƒ the right of defense was denied to one or other party;
8ƒ the controversy has not been even partially decided.
Can. 1621 In respect of the nullity mentioned in can. 1620, a plaint of nullity can be
made in perpetuity by means of an exception, or within ten years of the date of
publication of the judgment by means of an action before the judge who delivered the
Can. 1622 A judgment is null with a nullity which is simply remediable, if:
1ƒ contrary to the requirements of can. 1425, ß1, it was not given by the lawful
number of judges;
2ƒ it does not contain the motives or reasons for the decision;
3ƒ it lacks the signatures prescribed by the law;
4ƒ it does not contain an indication of the year, month, day and place it was given;
5ƒ it is founded on a judicial act which is null and whose nullity has not been
remedied in accordance with can. 1619;
6ƒ it was given against a party who, in accordance with can. 1593, ß2, was lawfully
Can. 1623 In the cases mentioned in can. 1622, a plaint of nullity can be proposed
within three months of notification of the publication of the judgment.
Can. 1624 The judge who gave the judgment is to consider the plaint of its nullity. If
the party fears that the judge who gave the judgment is biased, and consequently
considers him suspect, he or she can demand that another judge take his place in
accordance with can. 1450.
Can. 1625 Within the time limit established for appeal, a plaint of nullity can be
proposed together with the appeal.
Can. 1626 ß1 A plaint of nullity can be made not only by parties who regard themselves
as injured, but also by the promoter of justice and the defender of the bond, whenever
they have a right to intervene.
ß2 Within the time limit established in can. 1623, the judge himself can retract or
correct an invalid judgment he has given, unless in the meantime an appeal joined to a
plaint of nullity has been lodged, or the nullity has been remedied by the expiry of the
time limit mentioned in can. 1623.
Can. 1627 Cases concerning a plaint of nullity can be dealt with in accordance with the
norms for an oral contentious process.
Can. 1628 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1629, a party who considers him
or herself to be injured by a judgment has a right to appeal from the judgment to a
higher judge; in cases in which their presence is required, the promoter of justice and
the defender of the bond have likewise the right to appeal.
Can. 1629 No appeal is possible against:
1ƒ a judgment of the Supreme Pontiff himself, or a judgment of the Apostolic
2ƒ a judgment which is null, unless the appeal is lodged together with a plaint of
nullity, in accordance with can. 1625;
3ƒ a judgment which has become an adjudged matter
4ƒ a decree of the judge or an interlocutory judgment, which does not have the force
of a definitive judgment, unless the appeal is lodged together with an appeal against the
5ƒ a judgment or a decree in a case in which the law requires that the matter be
settled with maximum expedition.
Can. 1630 ß1 The appeal must be lodged with the judge who delivered the judgment,
within a peremptory time limit of fifteen canonical days from notification of the
publication of the judgment.
ß2 If it is made orally, the notary is to draw up the appeal in writing in the
presence of the appellant.
Can. 1631 If a question arises about the right of appeal, the appeal tribunal is to
determine it with maximum expedition, in accordance with the norms for an oral contentious
Can. 1632 ß1 If there is no indication of the tribunal to which the appeal is
directed, it is presumed to be made of the tribunal mentioned in canon. 1438 and 1439.
ß2 If the other party has resorted to some other appeal tribunal, the tribunal which
is of the higher grade is to determine the case, without prejudice to can. 1415.
Can. 1633 The appeal is to be pursued before the appeal judge within one month of its
being forwarded, unless the originating judge allows the party a longer time to pursue it.
Can. 1634 ß1 To pursue the appeal, it is required and is sufficient that the party
request the assistance of the higher judge to amend the judgment which is challenged,
enclosing a copy of the judgment and indicating the reasons for the appeal.
ß2 If the party is unable to obtain a copy of the appealed judgment from the
originating tribunal within the canonical time limit, this time limit is in the meantime
suspended. The problem is to be made known to the appeal judge, who is to oblige the
originating judge by precept to fulfill his duty as soon as possible.
ß3 In the meantime, the originating judge must forward the acts to the appeal court in
accordance with can. 1474.
Can. 1635 The appeal is considered to be abandoned if the time limits for an appeal
before either the originating judge or the appeal judge have expired without action being
Can. 1636 ß1 The appellant can renounce the appeal, with the effects mentioned in can.
ß2 Unless the law provides otherwise, an appeal made by the defender of the bond or
the promoter of justice, can be renounced by the defender of the bond or the promoter
justice of the appeal tribunal.
Can. 1637 ß1 An appeal made by the plaintiff benefits the respondent, and vice versa.
ß2 If there are several respondents or plaintiffs, and the judgment is challenged by
only one of them, or is made against only one of them, the challenge is considered to be
made by all and against all whenever the thing requested is an individual one or the
obligation is a joint one.
ß3 If one party challenges a judgment in regard to one ground, the other party can
appeal incidentally on the other grounds, even if the canonical time limit for the appeal
has expired. This incidental case is to be appealed within a peremptory time limit
fifteen days from the day of notification of the principal appeal.
ß4 Unless the contrary is clear, an appeal is presumed to be against all the grounds
of the judgment.
Can. 1638 An appeal suspends the execution of the judgment.
Can. 1639 ß1 Without prejudice to the provision of can. 1683, a new ground cannot be
introduced at the appeal grade, not even by way of the useful accumulation of grounds. So
the joinder of the issue can concern itself only with the confirmation or the reform of
the first judgment, either in part or in whole.
ß2 New evidence is admitted only in accordance with can. 1600.
Can. 1640 With the appropriate adjustments, the procedure at the appeal grade is to be
the same as in first instance. Unless the evidence is to be supplemented, however, once
the issue has been joined in accordance with can. 1513 ß1 and can. 1639 ß1, the judges
are to proceed immediately to the discussion of the case and the judgment.
Can. 1641 Without prejudice to can. 1643, an adjudged matter occurs when:
1ƒ there are two conforming judgments between the same parties about the same matter
and on the same grounds;
2ƒ no appeal was made against the judgment within the canonical time limit;
3ƒ the trial has been abated or renounced in the appeal grade;
4ƒ a definitive judgment has been given from which, in accordance with can. 1629,
there is no appeal.
Can. 1642 ß1 An adjudged matter has the force of law and cannot be challenged
directly, except in accordance with can. 1645 ß1.
ß2 It has the effect of law between the parties; it gives the right to an action
arising from the judgment and to an exception of an adjudged matter; to prevent a new
introduction of the same case, the judge can even declare such an exception ex officio.
Can. 1643 Cases concerning the status of persons never become an adjudged matter, not
excepting cases which concern the separation of spouses.
Can. 1644 ß1 If two conforming sentences have been given in cases concerning the
status of persons, recourse to a tribunal of appeal can be made at any time, to be
supported by new and serious evidence or arguments which are to be submitted within a
peremptory time limit of thirty days from the time the challenge was made. Within one
month of receiving the new evidence and arguments, the appeal tribunal must declare by a
decree whether or not a new presentation of the case is to be admitted.
ß2 Recourse to a higher tribunal to obtain a new presentation of the case does not
suspend the execution of the judgment, unless the law provides otherwise or the appeal
tribunal orders a suspension in accordance with can. 1650 ß3.
Can. 1645 ß1 Against a judgment which has become an adjudged matter there can be a
total reinstatement, provided it is clearly established that the judgment was unjust.
ß2 Injustice is not, however, considered clearly established unless:
1ƒ the judgment is so based on evidence which is subsequently shown to be false, that
without this evidence the dispositive part of the judgment could not be sustained;
2ƒ documents are subsequently discovered by which new facts demanding a contrary
decision are undoubtedly proven;
3ƒ the judgment was given through the deceit of one party to the harm of the other;
4ƒ a provision of a law which was not merely procedural was evidently neglected;
5ƒ the judgment runs counter to a preceding decision which has become an adjudged
Can. 1646 ß1 Total reinstatement based on the reasons mentioned in can. 1645 ß2, nn.
1‚3, is to be requested from the judge who delivered the judgment within three months
from the day on which these reasons became known.
ß2 Total reinstatement based on the reasons mentioned in can. 1645 ß2, nn. 4 and 5,
is to be requested from the appeal tribunal within three months of notification of the
publication of the judgment. In the case mentioned in can. 1645 ß2, n. 5, if the
preceding decision is not known until later, the time limit begins at the time the
knowledge was obtained.
ß3 The time limits mentioned above do not apply for as long as the aggrieved party is
Can. 1647 ß1 A plea for total reinstatement suspends the execution of a judgments
which has not yet begun.
ß2 If there are probable indications leading the judge to suspect that the plea was
made to cause delays in execution, he may decide that the judgment be executed. The
person seeking total reinstatement is, however, to be given suitable guarantees that, if
it is granted, he or she will be indemnified.
Can. 1648 Where total reinstatement is granted, the judge must pronounce judgment
the merits of the case.
Can. 1649 ß1 The Bishop who is responsible for governing the tribunal is to establish
1ƒ declarations that parties are liable for the payment or reimbursement of judicial
2ƒ the honorariums for advocates, experts and interpreters, and the expenses of
3ƒ the granting of free legal aid and the reduction of expenses;
4ƒ the payment of damages owed by a person who not merely lost the case, but was rash
in having recourse to litigation;
5ƒ the money to be deposited, or the guarantee to be given, for the payment of
expenses and the compensation of damages.
ß2 No distinct appeal exists from a pronouncement concerning expenses, honorariums and
damages. The parties can, however, have recourse within ten days to the same judge, who
can change the sum involved.
Can. 1650 ß1 A judgment which becomes adjudged matter can be executed, without
prejudice to the provision of can. 1647.
ß2 The judge who delivered the judgment and, if there has been an appeal, the appeal
judge, can either ex officio or at the request of a party order the provisional execution
of a judgment which has not yet become an adjudged matter, adding if need be appropriate
guarantees when it is a matter of provisions or payments concerning necessary support.
They can also do so for some other just and urgent reason.
ß3 If the judgment mentioned in ß2 is challenged, the judge who must deal with the
challenge can suspend the execution or subject it to a guarantee, if he sees that the
challenge is probably well founded and that irreparable harm could result from execution.
Can. 1651 Execution cannot take place before there is issued the judge's executing
decree directing that the judgment be executed. Depending on the nature of the case, this
decree is to be either included in the judgment itself or issued separately.
Can. 1652 If the execution of the judgment requires a prior statement of reasons, this
is to be treated as an incidental question, to be decided by the judge who gave the
judgment which is to be executed.
Can. 1653 ß1 Unless particular law provides otherwise, the Bishop of the diocese in
which the first instance judgment was given must, either personally or through another,
execute the judgment.
ß2 If he refuses or neglects to do so, the execution of the judgment, at the request
of an interested party or ex officio, belongs to the authority to which the appeal
tribunal is subject in accordance with can. 1439 ß3.
ß3 Between religious, the execution of the judgment is the responsibility of the
Superior who gave the judgment which is to be executed, or who delegated the judge.
Can. 1654 ß1 The executor must execute the judgment according to the obvious sense of
the words, unless in the judgment itself something is left to his discretion.
ß2 He can deal with exceptions concerning the manner and the force of the execution,
but not with the merits of the case. If he has ascertained from some other source that the
judgment is null or manifestly unjust according to canon. 1620, 1622 and 1645, he is to
refrain from executing the judgment, and is instead to refer the matter to the tribunal
which delivered the judgment and to notify the parties.
Can. 1655 ß1 In real actions, whenever it is decided that a thing belongs to the
plaintiff, it is to be handed over to the plaintiff as soon as the matter has become an
ß2 In personal actions, when a guilty person is condemned to hand over a movable
possession or to pay money, or to give or do something, the judge in the judgment
or the executor according to his discretion and prudence, is to assign a time limit for
the fulfillment of the obligation. This time limit is to be not less than fifteen days nor
more than six months.
Can. 1656 ß1 The oral contentious process dealt with in this section can be used in
all cases which are not excluded by law, unless a party requests an ordinary contentious
ß2 If the oral process is used in cases other than those permitted by the law, the
judicial acts are null.
Can. 1657 An oral contentious process in first instance is made before a sole judge, in
accordance with can. 1424.
Can. 1658 ß1 In addition to the matters enumerated in can. 1504, the petition which
introduces the suit must:
1ƒ set forth briefly, fully and clearly the facts on which the plaintiff's pleas are
2ƒ indicate the evidence by which the plaintiff intends to demonstrate the facts and
which cannot be brought forward with the petition; this is to be done in such a way that
the evidence can immediately be gathered by the judge.
ß2 Documents which support the plea must be added to the petition, at least in
Can. 1659 ß1 If an attempt at mediation in accordance with can. 1446 ß2 has proven
fruitless, the judge, if he deems that the petition has some foundation, is within three
days to add a decree at the foot of the petition. In this decree he is to order that a
copy of the plea be notified to the respondent, with the right to send a written reply to
the tribunal office within fifteen days.
ß2 This notification has the effects of a judicial summons that are as mentioned in
Can. 1660 If the exceptions raised by the respondent so require, the judge is to assign
the plaintiff a time limit for a reply, so that from the material advanced by each he can
clearly discern the object of the controversy.
Can. 1661 ß1 When the time limits mentioned in canon. 1659 and 1660 have expired, the
judge, after examining the acts, is to determine the point at issue. He is then to summon
all who must be present to a hearing, which is to be held within thirty days; for the
parties, he is to add the formulation of the point at issue.
ß2 In the summons the parties are to be informed that, to support their assertions,
they can submit a short written statement to the tribunal at least three days before the
Can. 1662 In the hearing, the questions mentioned in canon. 1459‚‚1464 are considered
Can. 1663 ß1 The evidence is assembled during the hearing, without prejudice to the
provision of can. 1418.
ß2 A party and his or her advocate can assist at the examination of the other parties,
of the witnesses and of the experts.
Can. 1664 The replies of the parties, witnesses and experts, and the pleas and
exceptions of the advocates, are to be written down by the notary in summary fashion,
restricting the record to those things which bear on the substance of the controversy.
This record is to be signed by the persons testifying.
Can. 1665 The judge can admit evidence which is not alleged or sought in the plea or
the reply, but only in accordance with can. 1452. After the hearing of even one witness,
however, the judge can admit new evidence only in accordance with can. 1600.
Can. 1666 If all the evidence cannot be collected during the hearing, a further hearing
is to be set.
Can. 1667 When the evidence has been collected, an oral discussion is to take place at
the same hearing.
Can. 1668 ß1 At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge can decide the case
forthwith, unless it emerges from the discussion that something needs to be added to the
instruction of the case, or that there is something which prevents a judgment being
correctly delivered. The dispositive part of the judgment is to be read immediately in
the presence of the parties.
ß2 Because of the difficulty of the matter, or for some other just reason the decision
of the tribunal can be deferred for up to five canonical days.
ß3 The full text of the judgment, including the reasons for it, is to be notified to
the parties as soon as possible, normally within fifteen days.
Can. 1669 If the appeal tribunal discerns that a lower tribunal has used the oral
contentious procedure in cases which are excluded by law, it is to declare the judgment
invalid and refer the case back to the tribunal which delivered the judgment.
Can. 1670 In all other matters concerning procedure, the provisions of the canons on
ordinary contentious trials are to be followed. In order to expedite matters, however,
while safeguarding justice, the tribunal can, by a decree and for stated reasons, derogate
from procedural norms which are not prescribed for validity.