Chapter 94

Proceedings before Trial Commission


The place for the trial shall be in the Masonic District where the offense occurred, or where the accused resides, but the Judge Advocate for reasons satisfactory to himself may name any convenient place within the state.


No person shall be admitted to a trial except those who are directly required in the proceedings such as the parties and their attorneys, the witnesses, the trial commissioners, the stenographer, and the Judge Advocate, any witnesses who are not Master Masons in good standing shall be admitted to testify and shall immediately thereafter retire. [13-2.20].


If the complaint and notice required by Regulation 91-9 have not been served upon the accused personally in any of the methods provided for in Chapter 91, and he has not filed an answer, the Judge Advocate shall send all papers in the case to the Chairman of the Trial Commission who shall thereupon fix a convenient time and place for the trial and shall designate some qualified brother to act as counsel for the accused, to whom the said chairman shall furnish a copy of the complaint together with notice of the time and place of trial, and the trial shall proceed as though a general denial has been made by the accused. [94-7; 94-22.3; 95-1.1].


If the accused admits the charges, or if he fails, neglects, or refuses to answer after the complaint, he shall be deemed to have pleaded guilty to each charge and specification in the complaint.

1. The Judge Advocate shall send all papers in the case to the Chairman of the Trial Commission who thereupon shall fix a convenient time and place for the Trial Commissioners to meet for the purpose of fixing the penalty to be imposed, at which time and place the Judge Advocate shall be entitled to be heard, either in person or by his representative, duly appointed in writing. [94-4.2; 94-7].

2. If the accused pleads facts in mitigation of punishment, the Judge Advocate shall ascertain if the complainant is willing to accept as true the facts alleged in mitigation.

A. If he is willing and the Judge Advocate approves, the same shall be deemed true and shall be considered by the Trial Commission in reaching its judgment.

B. If he is not willing or if the Judge Advocate does not approve, the matter shall be set down for hearing on this issue only in the manner provided in Regulation 94-5. [94-7; 95-1.2].


In all cases in which the accused shall have answered denying the charges and specifications either in whole or in part or shall have pleaded exculpatory or extenuating facts which are not accepted as true by the complainant or the Judge Advocate, the Judge Advocate shall deliver to each member of the Trial Commission a copy of the complaint and all documents in connection with the case. The Chairman of the Trial Commission shall thereupon fix a convenient time and place for the trial, notice of which he shall give to the accused and to all parties concerned by ordinary mail at least ten days before the date set if addressed to a locality in the State of North Carolina or in an adjoining state and at least twenty days prior thereto if addressed to a locality elsewhere. [94-7; 94-20; 95-1].


The Trial Commission may employ a Master Mason who is a stenographer who shall also act as clerk and his reasonable charges shall be a lawful expense of the trial and may be directed to be paid as other expenses of the trial are paid as provided for in Chapter 97.

1. If a stenographer is not employed, the testimony of each witness may be reduced to writing by question and answer and signed by him, or [94-22.2; 95-3.4].

2. The testimony may be taken on a recording machine, provided, the transcript thereof, or the recording itself, shall be authenticated by any member of the Trial Commission, the Judge Advocate, the stenographer, or clerk who was present when the recording was made.


The complainant, the accused, and the intervener may be represented in person, or they may at their own expense be represented by Master Masons in good standing acting as their attorneys, such attorneys being appointed in writing. The Judge Advocate may in person or by his duly appointed substitute prosecute any case at any time when he deems it to be for the best interest of Masonry. [90-4; 90-17; 94-3; 94-22.3].


A witness who is a Mason shall testify by virtue of his obligations and without being sworn. One who is not a Mason shall first be sworn before some officer duly authorized to administer an oath, or if he shall refuse to be sworn, he shall affirm that the testimony he is about to give will be the truth. The form of oath for a profane shall be as follows: "Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that the testimony which you shall give in the case pending against _____________________ shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?" [94-20].

1. In case a witness refuses to be sworn, or to affirm, that fact shall be noted and his testimony taken notwithstanding, but the same shall be given such credence as the Trial Commission may accord to it.

2. The Chairman of the Trial Commission is authorized to administer the oath to any witness required to be sworn.

3. A Master Mason who is an unaffiliated or under sentence must be sworn or he must affirm as a profane.

4. A wife may be a witness against her husband.

5. The common law limitation as to cross-examination has no application in Masonic trials. When a witness is once introduced, either party may seek any information the witness possesses relative to the issues involved.

6. In Masonic trials, truth is the object aimed at, verbal technicalities and objections are not favored and should never be permitted to obstruct the ends of justice.

7. The credibility of any witness may be impeached.

8. Members of the Trial Commission may propound questions to witnesses testifying at the trial.


The accused shall have the right to confront the witnesses against him except:

1. Where the witnesses have been examined by commission as provided in Chapter 93,

2. Where the accused has previously been tried, either in a Masonic trial or in a civil court, upon charges embracing the same offense and it is shown to the satisfaction of the Trial Commission that a witness who testified at such former trial is dead, insane, or cannot with due diligence be found within the State of North Carolina, in which case his testimony may be read in evidence upon any subsequent trial of the same charges, or

3. Where the accused has admitted the charges, or has failed, neglected or refused to answer the charges and the Judge Advocate has proceeded under Regulation 91-12.


The attendance on behalf of either party of a witness who is a Mason, or the production of any books, records, documents, papers, correspondence, or printed matter in the possession of a Mason may be enforced by a summons on which no seal shall be required, signed by the Chairman of the Trial Commission or an examiner appointed under the provisions of Chapter 93, but no summons shall be signed by the Chairman or by the examiner until it bears the name of the witness whose attendance is desired and a brief description of the books, records, documents, papers, correspondence, written or printed matter to be produced. Such summons may be served by any of the methods provided for the service of a complaint in Chapter 91. The proof of service shall be returned to the Chairman of the Trial Commission or to the examiner as the case may be. [94-21; Chapters 83, 97; Trial Forms 6, 8, 9)].


The rules of evidence established and recognized in courts of law of the State of North Carolina in the ordinary administration of justice including those which relate to the admissibility of testimony and the competency of witnesses, may be observed so far as may be consistent with the primary purpose of Masonic discipline and when they are not in conflict with specific Masonic law of the Grand Lodge or the ancient customs and usages of the Craft.

1. A Masonic trial is not required to use such rules, and in a case in which the complainant has introduced in evidence the record of the judgment of conviction of a state or federal court, the accused may introduce in evidence a certified copy of the entire record of the trial in which such judgment was rendered. [94-22.5.H].

2. Ex-parte affidavits or other documents shall not be admissible as evidence, except as provided by law or by consent of all parties. [23-1; 43-4; 94-9; 94-10; 94-12; 94-11.4].

3. Evidence that is merely hearsay shall not be used to sustain a charge of unmasonic conduct, but it may be used only to prove general reputation.

4. The official books and records of the lodge, the charter of the lodge and the official records of the Grand Lodge, or certified copies thereof, as well as the laws of the Grand Lodge are admissible as evidence and are proof of any fact contained therein. [23-1; 43-4].

5. Testimony given before the Trial Commission and reduced to writing shall be admissible in evidence on a subsequent trial of the same case.

A. The testimony, or a copy thereof, shall be certified to as correct by the Trial Commission before whom the same was given

B. Both the prosecution and the accused, against whom said testimony is offered, must have had the opportunity for cross-examination of the witness while said testimony was being given.

C. Either party may reexamine the witness on such subsequent trial, if present, notwithstanding the former testimony of such witness may have been read.


If the Masonic offense is one of which the accused has been convicted in a state or federal civil or military court, the record of the judgment of such court properly certified or exemplified, or the published findings of a court-martial, shall be presumptive evidence of the commission of such offense and sufficient to justify a conviction. [94-15.4].

1. The presumption of identity of person arising from identity or substantial identity of names may be overcome by affirmative proof.

2. The presumption arising therefrom may be overcome by affirmative proof tending to establish the innocence of the accused of the offense described in such record of judgment.

3. The presumption arising therefrom may be overcome by affirmative proof that the judgment has been reversed or set aside. Pending an appeal from such judgment of conviction in a state or federal court, the Judge Advocate may in his discretion stay the Masonic trial without prejudice to the proceedings theretofore had therein.

4. A copy of the evidence taken before a civil examining court in a preliminary hearing shall not be used in a Masonic trial except by agreement of the parties thereto.


The accused shall not be called as a witness by the prosecution.

1. The accused may if he so elects, be a witness in his own behalf.

2. If the accused is a witness in his own behalf it shall be competent for the prosecution to examine him as fully as to all the particulars of the case whether touched upon in his examination or otherwise.

3. The trial commissioners shall be the judges of his credibility and the weight to be given to his evidence.


Applications to continue a trial may be granted by the Trial Commission in its discretion

1. For failure to secure service within the time or as required by Masonic law,

2. For absence of accused, of counsel, or of an important witness

3. On account of sickness, or

4. For any other just and equitable reason.

5. Application to continue such trials for a longer time than one month or to await the action of the civil courts on charges against the accused, shall be decided by a majority vote of the Trial Commission and be approved by the Judge Advocate. [94-22.4].

6. The Trial Commission in granting a continuance to an accused shall fix a specific time for the trial.

7. No postponement for an indefinite period shall be granted.

8. An erroneous indefinite postponement of a trial shall not be construed as a dismissal of the charges. [94-22.4].

9. On the first application no postponement of a trial, the purpose of which shall be to await the action of the courts of the country, shall be granted for a longer period of time than three months.

10. If the courts have not acted within that time, the Trial Commission shall proceed to a trial of the charges unless in its sound discretion, upon application therefor and with the approval of the Judge Advocate, further postponement should be granted.

11. Before a second postponement of more than one month shall be granted, the testimony of all important witnesses of the prosecution shall be taken upon interrogatories before the Trial Commission or an examiner as provided for in Chapter 93 and reduced to writing and signed by each of said witnesses.

A. The testimony shall be carefully preserved and shall be admissible on the subsequent trial of the accused if any such witness is not present thereat.

B. In taking the testimony of witnesses as provided herein, they may be cross-examined by the accused or his counsel. [94-22.4].

C. When the important testimony of any case has been reduced to writing and signed by the witness or witnesses, the Trial Commission with the approval of the Judge Advocate may grant additional continuances of the case for reasonable periods if there appears to be any just or valid reason therefor.

D. Such postponements should not be granted in any case of gross immorality or of reprehensible conduct of an accused, a postponement of whose trial would appear condone the crime or tend to reflect upon the institution of Masonry.


The acquittal of a Mason by the civil courts of an alleged offense, of which he also stands charged in the Grand Lodge, shall not serve as a criterion for, or govern the action to be taken by the Trial Commission thereafter. The Trial Commission may proceed with the trial, notwithstanding, if the facts show that a Masonic offense has been committed. Each such case shall be governed by its own facts and the demands of Masonic justice tempered by the exercise of such charity as the circumstances justify.

1. The Masonic standing of a brother is determined only in a Masonic proceeding. The conviction or acquittal in a civil court is not of itself an adjudication of his Masonic standing. If convicted or not convicted by the civil court, he may under such circumstances be tried as provided by Masonic law as though the case had never appeared in court.

2. The procedure in the civil courts known as nolle prosequi cannot be used in Masonic trials. The literal meaning of that procedure is that the prosecutor is unwilling to prosecute and that he will proceed no further in his action. It leaves the charge of unmasonic conduct unsettled. It does not erase or close the permanent record of the case already made. There is no unequivocal judgment of "not guilty" which every Mason is entitled to have if he be adjudged innocent after a fair trial. A judgment of either innocence or guilt after trial would be a vindication of Masonry.

3. A complaint cannot be withdrawn, but it may be dismissed as provided by law. [91-7.5; 94-20; 94-22.5.I].

4. The term civil court as used in the Trial Code is hereby defined to be criminal or civil, State, Federal or Military Courts. [94-11].


A Mason charged with defaming a brother or a profane may introduce evidence to establish the truth of the alleged defamation in mitigation of his fault.


Trial of an Entered Apprentice or Fellow Craft shall be conducted as nearly as possible with the same procedure employed in the trial of a Master Mason.


At the close of the evidence the prosecutor may make his comments upon the business in hand, after which the defense shall be heard and the prosecutor shall have the right to close.


If after the selection of the three trial commissioners, any of them should die, become disqualified, or become unable for any reason to serve, or should refuse to serve, the trial shall nevertheless proceed.

1. If two qualified commissioners remain, the vacancy may be left unfilled in which case the Judge Advocate shall name one of them as chairman.

2. In the event less than two remain, the proceedings shall be suspended until the vacancies on the commission are filled. [91-8].

3. On five days written notice, the Judge Advocate may remove any or all members of a Trial Commission who become disqualified or unable for any reason to serve, or for failure or refusal to act, or for unreasonable delay in acting, or for other reasonable cause.

4. He shall fill any vacancy that may occur in a Trial Commission after written notice to all parties to the case as in the first instance, unless all parties consent in writing to the appointment. [91-9.2].


The Chairman of the Trial Commission shall fix a convenient time and place for the trial.

1. He shall rule on all motions to amend or dismiss any charge or specification.

2. He shall rule on the regularity or sufficiency of the service of citation and copies of the charges, and the return thereon.

3. He shall rule on the regularity and legality of the taking of depositions, and of motions to quash the whole, or any part thereof.

4. He shall rule on all questions of the materiality and admissibility of testimony.

5. He may allow or refuse amendments to the pleading after announcement of ready for trial has been made by both the prosecution and the accused.

6. He shall control the number of arguments to be made by each side and shall divide the time thereof equally, but the prosecution shall open and close the argument.

7. No appeal shall be taken from his decision to the Trial Commission, but he shall be responsible to the Grand Lodge for any abuse of his powers.

8. When a chairman is appointed, he shall be vested with all the prerogatives, powers, and functions usually exercised by the Master or by civil magistrates in the trial of causes, and he shall have power to summon a trial commissioner to attend.

9. He shall not have power to punish any brother who disobeys his lawful orders or who acts in a disorderly or disrespectful manner in the presence of the Trial Commission, but the Trial Commission may do so as provided in Regulation 100-3. [8-1; 8-2; 94-5; 94-8; 94-15].


Any Mason who has been summoned to appear and give testimony for use in a Masonic trial or before a Trial Commission, who willfully fails or refuses to attend at the time and place designated, or who, appearing, refuses to answer questions or to give testimony shall upon conviction thereof, be guilty of a Masonic offense. [87-13.2; 93-4.1; 94-10; Chapter 83].


On the day designated for the trial the proceedings thereof shall be conducted as nearly as practicable in the following manner:

1. The Trial Commission shall assemble and sign a pledge upon their honor as Master Masons to render a fair and impartial decision according to Masonic law and upon the testimony presented at the trial which shall be filed among the documents of the case. The Judge Advocate shall prepare the form of pledge.

2. The chairman shall appoint a secretary, preferably a stenographer if one who is a Master Mason can be procured, who shall keep a correct record of the proceedings and of the testimony introduced. [94-6].

3. The chairman will see that the prosecution and the accused are represented in the manner and under the regulations provided in Regulations 94-3, 94-7.

4. If a motion for a continuance is presented by either side, it shall be heard and acted on by the Trial Commission. If granted, the chairman shall reset the date for the trial under the rules and regulations prescribed in Regulations 94-14; 94-14.6; 94-14.9.

5. If a motion for a continuance of a trial is overruled, the proceedings shall continue as nearly as practicable as follows.

A. All motions to quash depositions, or to dismiss charges or specifications or to amend pleading shall be heard and acted upon by the chairman.

B. The charges and specifications shall be read to the Trial Commission.

C. The answer of the accused shall be read, or if it consists of a verbal denial or a plea of guilty, same shall be entered upon the minutes by the Secretary.

D. The prosecution shall present its direct testimony.

E. The accused shall present his testimony.

F. The prosecution may present testimony in rebuttal.

G. The accused may present testimony in rebuttal.

H. The Trial Commission may permit any additional testimony by either side necessary to present all material facts. The introduction of testimony shall be governed by the provisions of this Trial Code as far as applicable, but the chairman is not restricted by technical rules employed in civil trials, and may exercise a reasonable discretion in admitting testimony which tends to throw light upon and to develop the essential facts; and in taking the testimony of witnesses as provided herein, they may be cross-examined. [94-8.5; 94-8.6; 94-11; 94-12; 94-11.2; 94-13].

I. Upon the conclusion of the testimony the chairman shall hear and act upon any motion to dismiss any charge and specification offered on the ground that it is not supported by evidence.

J. Arguments of counsel shall be heard. [94-18; 94-20].

6. The Trial Commission shall determine the verdict and if the accused is found guilty, shall vote on the penalty as provided in Chapter 95.

7. All subsequent proceedings relating to application for a new trial, appeal, and restoration shall be governed by the provisions of the regulations of this Trial Code applicable thereto. [Chapters 96; 98; 99; 101].


A prosecution to punish for a Masonic offense shall abate upon the death of the accused, or if he should become insane.

1. In the event a complainant shall die, or if he should become insane, or for any reason shall fail or refuse to prosecute while the case is pending and before the final judgment is rendered, the prosecution shall not abate, nor shall the case, for that reason, be dismissed or tried anew.

2. The Judge Advocate shall immediately designate, by a written order, a Master Mason in good standing to prosecute, or to continue the prosecution of the case, or do so himself. [94-4; 94-7; 94-22.3].


Where there has been a conviction or an acquittal upon a duly filed complaint charging an offense, and the case has been concluded by no appeal or by final action on appeal, it shall be a bar to another prosecution for the same offense. [91-13.11; 98-4].