• This handbook is created to educate our members about Appeals Committees. The process begins with the Tournament Director, who enforces the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. The Tournament Director can adjust scores (Law 12) and give procedural penalties (Law 90). Each player then has a right to appeal a ruling made at his or her table(Law 92). An Appeals Committee will usually hear that appeal (Law 93).
  • The Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge allow contestants to appeal any ruling made at their table by the Director (Law 92). Even if an Appeals Committee is available, the Chief Director still hears an appeal if it is based solely on Law or Regulation. Other appeals go directly to committee. In cases dealing solely with Law or Regulation, the contestant may appeal the Chief Directors ruling. However, no committee is permitted by law to  overrule the Tournament Director on a point of Law or Regulation. It can only recommend that the Tournament  Director reconsider his or her decision (Law 93).
  • The Appeals Committee deals mostly with bridge judgment and fact.  If the Committee believes discipline is warranted, it should decide the bridge appeal and refer the remainder to the Tournament Director for charging to the appropriate disciplinary committee. This committee is not a court of law, but in some ways is similar. It uses principles of equity so no player may gain an advantage by unethical conduct or violation of bridge law. Committee members should hear the whole story and make a fair and reasonable adjudication. They should not accept a procedural argument that prevents either side from fully expressing its views. The purpose of this Handbook is to help those who serve on an Appeals Committee and those who appoint committee members.  When a Committee follows these guidelines, it will hold a fair hearing and should reach a fair and reasonable decision. Every participant  is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing, no matter the final decision.
  • Note: The Committee Chairperson must be particularly careful in implementing part III. Procedures, A. Introductions below with respect to advising committee members and parties to the appeal to air concerns of possible bias .

      1. Introductions are the first order of business. The committee chairperson should:
        1. Give his or her  full name and home city;
        2. State that the chair will function as the presiding officer;
        3. Request that all questions and comments be directed to the chair;
        4. Have the other committee members introduce themselves;
        5. Have the parties, including their advocates, introduce themselves.
      2. The committee chairperson addresses the committee members as follows:

        "If there is any reason why you feel you should not serve on this committee, please recuse yourselves now."
        "If you believe you can serve and make an unbiased decision, but you know of conditions or circumstances that may be perceived as creating potential bias or perceived as such, please disclose those issues now."

      3. The committee chairperson addresses the parties to the appeal and the committee as follows: "If any member of this committee or party to the appeal has cause to believe that a committee member should not serve, you must raise the issue or issues now." (If there is any objection, see section III.F. below)
      4. The committee chairperson introduces The Tournament Director and gives his or her name and role (e.g., table or floor director, chief director, appeals director);
      5. The committee chairperson introduces any witness, stating if that witness is associated with any party to the appeal.

      1. They will have enough time to present their side;
      2. The committee will call upon each party at the appropriate time;
      3. There should be no interactions between the parties involved;
      4. All testimony is directed to the chairperson;
      5. For team events, the committee should not hear anything about what happened at the other table (NOTE: If the committee decides to award an artificial adjusted score pursuant to Law 12C1, they should then be told of the score at the other table.);
      6. No interruptions will be tolerated;
      7. When a witness is finished, opposing parties and committee members will have an opportunity to ask questions(always directed to the chair);
      8. Each party will have an opportunity to present rebuttal testimony, and make whatever final argument they feel is appropriate;
      9. When everyone is finished testifying, the committee will deliberate privately;
      10. The parties will be called back to the committee room to hear the committee's decision. Once the committee announces its decision there is no further argument or discussion.


      • A. Evidence That May Be Considered by a Committee
      • ACBL is a membership organization whose governing body sets its own rules. Committees are not courts of law, so the rules of evidence applicable to courts of law and other legal tribunals do not apply to committees.
      • Usually, a committee should permit hearsay evidence but not hearsay on hearsay. We may roughly define hearsay evidence as a statement made by another person offered for the truth of the statement. An example is testimony by one person that another person said he or she heard South bid 3 spades. This is hearsay evidence if offered for the proposition that South bid 3 spades. A person who testifies that he or she heard a rumor that another person said he or she heard South bid 3 spades gives hearsay on hearsay, if offered for the same proposition.
      • While a committee should permit hearsay evidence, the weight given the hearsay evidence should be less than the weight given  direct testimony. The reason is that it is not as reliable as direct testimony and there is no effective way to question it. This often means we have no way to be certain it is really true.
      • Hearsay on hearsay testimony is so unreliable that the possibility of prejudice far outweighs its probative value. We are all familiar with the elementary school game of story telling. The teacher whispers a short story to the first child. The child repeats the story to the next child, and so on until the last child tells the story to the class. The end story is usually substantially different.
      • The committee should consider any evidence that bears on an issue before it. If particular testimony makes any contested fact or factual inference more or less likely, then that particular testimony is relevant and the committee should hear it. A committee should not allow testimony that fails this test because hearing it is a waste of time.
      • What is relevant is primarily a matter of common sense and experience. ACBL expects committees to use their collective discretion rather than a rigid set of rules.
      • The committee should be prepared to deal with self-serving testimony. The testimony usually is relevant and should be admitted, but in such cases the committee should not give it any significant weight. The reason is the potential bias by players having a direct interest in the committee deciding matters in a particular way.

      • B. Burden of Proof
      • As to a particular issue, the party with the Burden of Proof has the responsibility to prove that issue. A party satisfies the burden if he or she introduces evidence that, if accepted, could be a basis for deciding the matter in their favor. As an aside, the party still satisfies the burden of proof if the committee does not believe the evidence. In such a case the committee is simply resolving evidentiary or credibility issues against that party.
      • Cases before a committee should be heard as if for the first time regardless of any previous determination by the Director. A committee must review the evidence independently, and makes its own determination of fact or bridge judgment. Consequently, a Tournament Director has no burden of proof in an Appeals Committee hearing. Remember, however, that if the committee finds the same facts and bridge judgment as the Tournament Director, it must make the same ruling.  NOTE:  Committee should discuss the point of how much, if any, weight be given to the director's decision.

      • C. Types of Evidence
      • When used to prove a proposition, direct evidence means that we require no inference to prove the proposition. Circumstantial evidence requires an inference to prove the same proposition. The dealer opens 1 diamond and second chair overcalls 2NT. Fourth chair explains the bid shows the "two lower unbid". This is direct evidence that the bid shows the two lower unbid suits. However, if fourth chair later bids clubs holding five hearts and only three clubs, that is circumstantial evidence that the bid does not show the two lower unbid suits.
      • Neither type of evidence is necessarily more convincing. A committee member can discount direct evidence about an automobile going through the intersection while the light is green if the witness proves to have an uncertain memory. Committee members should evaluate all direct and circumstantial evidence to decide which evidence is more credible and entitled to more weight under the circumstances of that particular hearing.
      • Demonstrative evidence is an object or tangible item. Its probative value depends on its connection to the other evidence produced in the hearing. For example, a convention card and partnership notes are demonstrative evidence. Their importance and effect in a mistaken bid versus mistaken explanation case could depend on their completeness and when the players filled in the relevant sections.

      • D. Credibility and Weight
      • Credibility is the extent to which a witness is believable. A witness who testifies that the light was green when the automobile entered the intersection, but who later admits being miles away should be found not credible.
      • Witnesses usually testify to the truth as they perceive it. If two people testify to the opposite, such as whether a traffic light was green or red, one must be wrong. However, both could firmly believe they are correct and the other wrong. This sometimes happens when a witness so strongly wants a particular fact to be true that he or she becomes convinced of it. Committee members need not think a witness is lying to disbelieve him or her.
      • Weight is the degree to which credible evidence controls the ultimate decision of the committee. Weight is the importance assigned to the particular evidence. If a witness testifies that the playing area was very noisy, the testimony could be very credible. However, in a mistaken explanation versus mistaken bid case the testimony would not have much weight.
      • Sometimes evidence will be irrelevant due to legal constraints. In a hesitation case, the subjective opinions and judgments of the partner of the player who hesitated are irrelevant. The only relevant issues in a hesitation case are whether the hesitation demonstrably suggested the action taken and whether there was a logical alternative to the action taken.
      • A Tournament Director often bases his or her ruling on Management guidelines and precedents that suggest a particular ruling. The committee makes independent credibility decisions,  and may depart from established Management guidelines and precedent only when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Accordingly, the committee should not consider itself bound by the facts or bridge judgments found by the Tournament Director.

      • E. Organization
      • A committee's main task is to decide the facts, apply its collective judgment to the effect the facts have on the matter before it, apply the law as stated by the Tournament Director, to the facts,  and make its decision. Its members should work together to reach a consensus. No member should stubbornly hold to a position without seriously considering the contrary positions held by other members, or change his or her position solely to avoid dissension.
      • A committee should not compromise on the facts. Only one set of facts can exist. Determining the effect of the facts is necessarily a subjective judgment. Compromise on the effect of those facts, therefore, is often appropriate and always possible.
      • Committee members should avoid endless and futile deliberations. A vote resolves an issue, but a committee may revisit that issue if a member raises some new point. However, once the committee announces its decision, the matter is at an end.