Church Attorneys (Title IV.2 definition of Church Attorney) may be one or several attorneys selected to represent the diocese in a Title IV proceedings. Once a proceeding has been advanced to the Reference Panel, and the Reference Panel has furthered the matter for action, the Intake Officer’s report goes to the Church Attorney. The Church Attorney is responsible for determining if the report, or parts of it, merit further proceedings. (What Constitutes an Offense)
If the Church Attorney determines further proceedings are not warranted, he or she does not simply dismiss a matter, but rather, recognizes the theological foundation of Title IV, and refers the matter back to the Intake Officer and the Bishop for a possible Pastoral Response.
Attorney Steve Hutchinson echoes the need for positive outcomes. If a Title IV proceeding has reached the Conference Panel stage, it is important for the Church Attorney to recognize all the parties’ needs. Although the Church Attorney is representing only the interests of the church (the Church Attorney does not represent the bishop, the Standing Committee, or the Disciplinary Board), he or she should keep the process fair.
As an expert in Title IV, Pauline Getz has observed and consulted with Church Attorneys about best practices throughout the entirety of Title IV proceedings. She reminds Church Attorneys, and all involved in the Title IV process, that this is a part of church life and an ecclesiastical process.
The Church Attorney is advised to join the President of the Hearing Panel in reminding all parties that the procedure is not an adversarial trial.
The Church Attorney should be familiar with all the Title IV Canons. Also, a step-by-step guide to assist with Title IV processes is available on the Title IV Structure and Procedures section of this website.
Canon Chancellor Steve Hutchinson is one of the original framers of Title IV and a long-time trainer. He says the Church Attorney needs to recognize that dignity is a hallmark of a Title IV proceeding.