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
- The Appeals Committee deals with questions
of bridge judgment and facts arising from bidding, play or defense.
For example, its members might have to decide whether a particular
action could be based on unauthorized information. Members may need to
analyze a player’s bidding system and skill level plus whatever else the
committee may feel is relevant.
The other type of committee is the Disciplinary Committee.
A sponsoring organization appoints this committee as its disciplinary body. It
focuses on player conduct. Members decide whether to discipline a player for conduct
ranging from simple rudeness to deliberate cheating. Bridge judgment is
usually a side issue during its hearings and deliberations.
- The differences between these committees are
important. An Appeals Committee lets the actual result stand or adjusts
it as permitted by the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. Sometimes it
assesses a procedural penalty against some or all of the parties (in
IMPs, matchpoints, or some other non-score sanction). A Disciplinary
Committee decides if it should discipline a player for his or her
conduct. Its options include anything from imposing a reprimand to
expulsion from ACBL. Regulations permit a scoring adjustment in the
interest of equity, but this is a secondary consideration. A Tournament
Disciplinary Committee has limited powers, as detailed in the Code
of Disciplinary Regulations
- The Unit or District Board of Directors appoints an Appeals Committee for
its sectional or regional tournament. It may delegate this authority to the
tournament chairperson or another specified individual.
- An Appeals Committee must often make bridge
judgments about other players of different skill levels. Consequently,
every Unit or District should make an effort to appoint knowledgeable
players to serve on their Appeals Committees.
- Selecting committee chairpersons is an important duty. A good chairperson
can help ensure that the committee considers all of the evidence and conducts
an impartial hearing. Players who serve on Committees at North American Bridge
Championships are good choices for this role.
- Committee members should come from different geographical areas when possible. This
will give the committee a broader base of experience, making a fair and
impartial hearing more likely. No party should leave an Appeals Committee
hearing feeling disadvantaged merely because they live in a different locale.
All parties should believe they had a fair hearing with a full opportunity to
express their views.
- Every committee member must be unbiased. Common sense should
prevent most incorrect appointments. Of course, no committee member should be
a regular partner, close friend, spouse, significant other or known enemy of
any party, or have a business or financial association. Any committee member
who has dealings with a party should reveal that fact immediately and excuse
himself or herself from service. Committee members should conduct themselves
appropriately, and avoid social contact with any party either before or
immediately after the hearing.
- The Tournament Director performs different
functions at an Appeals Committee hearing. As the first witness, he or
she presents a complete statement of the facts, issues, applicable laws
and available sanctions.
A Tournament Director is no party's adversary. As
a professional arbiter, the Tournament Director is expected to make each ruling
after a careful effort to discover every relevant fact and understand
the bridge judgments involved.
- The Appeals Committee should support the
Tournament Director as a neutral person. During the hearing, this means
treating the Tournament Director with respect. It also means announcing
its decision without reference to the Tournament Director. Avoid phrases
such as "We uphold the director's ruling" or "We overrule the director"
because these imply that a Tournament Director is not neutral.
- In the interest of efficiency the Tournament
Director normally testifies first. He or she should give a summary of
the facts and issues, recite the pertinent law and regulations, and
describe the available sanctions. An Appeals Committee may not overrule
a Tournament Director on a point of law. In such a case, the Tournament
Director may be asked to reconsider his or her ruling.
The Tournament Director should inform the
committee when bridge judgment is not relevant by showing a copy of the
applicable law or regulation.
- Each tournament should have a list of
qualified persons who agree to serve on Appeals Committees. The person
responsible for appointing the committee should consult with his or her
Board of Directors. The opinions of some of the respected players in the
area may also be helpful.
- The Tournament Committee can avoid having a less-than-qualified Appeals
Committee by enlisting available, qualified players in advance.
- A committee should have an odd number of
members, usually three or five. This should prevent a committee from
- Bridge players are as argumentative as other high level competitors. We
need procedures that ensure an orderly and efficient hearing. Committees
should follow the procedures described beginning here.
- Introductions are the first order of business.
The committee chairperson should:
- Give his or her full name and home city;
- State that the chair will function as the
- Request that all questions and comments be
directed to the chair;
- Have the other committee members introduce
- Have the parties, including their advocates, introduce
- The committee chairperson addresses the committee members
"If there is any reason why you feel you should
not serve on this committee, please recuse yourselves now."
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."
- 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)
- 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);
- The committee chairperson introduces any
witness, stating if that witness is associated with any party to the
- The committee should consider whether
any person is at a disadvantage because he or she does not
understand English. The chair should make a good faith effort to ensure that
this person fully understands what others say and that everyone
understands what this person says. If there was no opportunity to arrange for
an interpreter, then in appropriate cases the committee should postpone the
hearing to provide that opportunity.
- The committee should also undertake a good faith effort to ensure that
any disability will not be a disadvantage. In appropriate cases the committee should
postpone the hearing.
- The chairperson should inform those present of the following:
- They will have enough time to present their
- The committee will call upon each party at the
- There should be no interactions between the
- All testimony is directed to the chairperson;
- 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.);
- No interruptions will be tolerated;
- When a witness is finished, opposing parties and committee members will
have an opportunity to ask questions(always directed to the chair);
- Each party will have an opportunity to present
rebuttal testimony, and make whatever final argument they feel is
- When everyone is finished testifying, the
committee will deliberate privately;
- 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.
- The chairperson may ask a member to prepare the
required report or keep notes so that the chair can prepare the report.
other record of the hearing is kept, except as directed by the committee.
- The committee determines all rulings on the suitability of a question and
admissibility of evidence. The chairperson speaks for the committee. If any
member disagrees, the committee deliberates the issue privately and decides
the point by majority vote.
- Each committee’s first duty is to ensure not
only actual fairness but also the appearance of fairness. Mere knowledge of a
party’s past appearances before appeal or disciplinary committees is not a
basis for disqualification. Parties should have the chance to challenge a
committee member for cause. If a party challenges a member who will not withdraw,
the remaining committee members may consider evidence pertaining to the challenge
and vote on the issue. Before the substantive phase of the hearing
begins, the sponsoring organization should fill any resulting vacancy to maintain
an odd number of committee members.
- After the committee resolves any and all challenges, it decides if the appealing party has standing
to make the appeal. An individual may appeal a ruling only if the Tournament
Director made it at his or her table. Both members of a partnership, and in
a team game the captain, must concur in the appeal. If the appealing party does
not have standing, the committee must dismiss the appeal. The hearing does
not end, as the committee may impose a procedural penalty upon the appelant.
Although the Committee should assume that the appealing party’s standing was
determined by the Tournament Director, they may make an independent decision
on that issue.
- The chairperson should explain to those present
that the standard of proof to accept one version of the facts over
another version is a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the
committee accepts the version more likely to be true.
- For example:
If the appeal involves a mistaken bid versus mistaken
explanation situation, the chairperson should say that this pair has a burden
to present clear and convincing evidence. To accept as true that there was a
mistaken bid, a majority of the committee members must possess a firm belief
or conviction that there was a mistaken bid rather than a mistaken
explanation. This is not so rigorous a standard as proof beyond a reasonable
doubt, as used in criminal cases. For a fuller explanation, see Burden of Proof.
- The Tournament Director is first, summarizing
the relevant facts and issues along with the pertinent law. Next,
he or she presents a list of available rulings and sanctions and informs
the Appeals Committee of the full range of its authority. After responding
to any questions from committee members and parties, the Tournament Director may
withdraw. The chairperson may and should recall the Tournament Director
especially when more information regarding law or regulation is
- Each appellant(the contestant lodging the
appeal) or their advocate (not both) gives his or
her version of the facts plus their reasons why the Appeals Committee should decide
matters in their favor. After each appellant is finished, the appellee(the
opponent of the appellant) and any committee members may ask any pertinent
questions. If an advocate represents the appellant, the appellant speaks
only as a witness.
- Each appellee, or their advocate (not both), gives his or her version of
the facts plus their reasons why the Appeals Committee should decide matters
in their favor. After each appellee is finished, the appellant and any
committee members may ask any pertinent questions. If an advocate represents
the appellee, the appellee speaks only as a witness.
- Each party, starting with the appellant, has a chance to address what the
opposing parties said. Rebuttal is not the time to say something a party
forgot to say at his or her first opportunity. After rebuttal is finished,
each party may make a final argument why the committee should support his or
her position. Following this, the chairperson should emphasize that once the
committee announces a decision there can be no further testimony or argument.
- After final arguments are finished, the
committee deliberates privately. All other persons must remain out of
earshot. It keeps no record of its deliberations. If the committee
discovers facts not known by the Tournament Director or believes he or
she applied the wrong law, it should recall the Tournament Director.
After discussion with him or her, the Appeals Committee decides the
matter by majority vote.
- The Laws of Duplicate Contract
Bridge (specifically Law 84E) state that if an irregularity has occurred
for which no penalty is provided by law, the Tournament Director awards
an adjusted score if there is even a reasonable possibility that
the non-offending side was damaged. An Appeals Committee is subject to
the same Laws. In gray areas both a Tournament Director and an
Appeals Committee should rule for the non-offending side. Members are
completely free to find facts and make bridge judgements that are
completely at odds with the facts and bridge judgements found by the
- An Appeals Committee is bound by the Tournament
Director's statement of applicable law and regulations. If a committee
finds the same facts as the Tournament Director and makes the same
bridge judgments, then it must make the same ruling. A committee cannot
overrule a Tournament Director on a point of law or regulation. A
Committee may decide that a different Law applies and inform the
Tournament Director of the facts that led to this conclusion. The
Committee may not apply a different law if the Tournament Director
When announcing a decision that is
identical to the Tournament Director’s ruling, the Appeals Committee should emphasize
that it found the facts and applied its collective
bridge judgment independently. It should refrain from describing that
decision as "upholding the director's ruling." This will help preserve everyone’s image of
the Tournament Director as a neutral person, rather than as an advocate.
- A committee should recognize the Tournament Director is impartial. That
alone may be enough to convince the committee of a particular set of facts. A
party disagreeing with the facts as set forth by the Tournament Director is
most likely speaking out of self-interest. An appellant or appellee may truly
believe what he or she is saying, but remember each party had time to consider
what they were going to say. This is a matter of credibility, discussed more
fully in section IV. Principles of Evidence.
- The committee should recall all parties and the Tournament Director to
hear its decision. The chairperson should try to ensure that both sides are
aware of why the decision was reached. All of the parties are subject to a
disciplinary penalty if objections to the committee’s decision are considered
disrespectful of either the process or the committee. The Committee delivers
its report on the official ACBL form to the Tournament Director.
IV. PRINCIPLES OF EVIDENCE
- A. Evidence That May Be Considered by a
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.