The attorney will discover that Title IV is not secular law. It is not a disciplinary procedure with an outcome of winning or losing as a goal. Title IV, Canon 1 states, in part, the Church and each diocese seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected. (Title IV.1) Therefore, it requires a different legal frame of reference and skill set than is used in criminal or civil law.
The Rev. Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn has been involved in Title IV cases for years and in the training of Title IV officers. He says even Episcopalians who practice law discover they need to change from their usual legal mindset about disciplinary procedures.
Attorney Pauline Getz is the chair of the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution & Canons of The Episcopal Church, which reviews the canons of the church, including Title IV, on a continuing basis. She recommends embracing the challenge to learn a new body of law.
Executive Council of The Episcopal Church member Alexizendria Link says Christian beliefs define Title IV, not traditional judicial law.
Another misconception is that Title IV is similar to secular employment law. Attorney Sally Johnson, Esq., is the Chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies and one of the original authors of much of Title IV. She says attorneys new to this process must understand that Title IV is not an employment decision.
If retained as a Respondent’s attorney, best practices point to gathering all that is available in the largely transparent proceeding. The process starts with the intake report, which is shared with the Respondent once there is a determination that, if true, an offense rises to a Title IV level. Attorney Pauline Getz, is an authority on the legal protocol of the Title IV Canons and is the Chair of the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution & Canons of The Episcopal Church. That body is in constant study of the canons.
Experienced Title IV facilitators and Disciplinary Board members say best practices suggest a proceeding that has reached the Conference Panel stage is a critical time for an attorney to leave his or her courtroom strategies at home. The Rev. Canon Michael Hunn has trained Title IV officers to be part of the canonical process and currently is the Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry within The Episcopal Church. He reaffirms that the Conference Panel is not a trial.
Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn says even the staging of a Conference Panel room is important. It should not look like a secular trial court.