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Guidelines on Advocates' Reimbursement and Fees
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In exercising the right to vindicate one's rights within the Church in accord with canon 221 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and canon 24 of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches (CCEO), it is often necessary to use the services of canonical advocates. Thus, those involved in canonical disputes have a right to the services of advocates.


These guidelines provide a standard for compensation and remuneration of services provided by canonical advocates. While representation is often necessary for justice in a canonical process, justice also requires reimbursement for the expenses incurred by an advocate and remuneration for services provided. When a client is unable to pay or is of significantly limited resources, that person's ability to vindicate rights can be impaired. In such circumstances, canon law provides that assistance be given to enable the person to effectively vindicate those rights. This is enunciated explicitly in canon 1334 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches:

The poor, that is, those who are totally unable to pay the court costs, have the right to the gratuitous legal assistance; those who can pay only part of the court costs, to a diminution of expenses.

While there is no parallel canon in the Latin Code, the right to such assistance is implicit in canons 221 and 1649, §1, 3, as well as in other canons dealing with advocacy and the right of defense.

For canonical trials, canon 1649 (CIC) and canon 1335 (CCEO) respectively designate the bishop moderating a tribunal and the tribunal as the agent for determining compensation for judicial expenses and honoraria for advocates and procurators. Such policies for advocates in marriage nullity cases are widespread, with most tribunals having established the stable corps of advocates recommended by canons 1490 CIC and 1148 CCEO. Policies for reimbursement and remuneration of advocates in other judicial processes should likewise be set in place and regularly reviewed.

For canonical actions of an administrative rather than a judicial nature, policies can be modeled on those for the expenses and honoraria of advocates and procurators in judicial matters.

The following guidelines are suggested as a standard for the reimbursement and compensation of canonical advocates in non-matrimonial processes, both judicial and administrative.

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The Services Of An Advocate

When an advocate is asked to accept a case by a prospective client, the advocate's expectations for reimbursement and compensation should be discussed at that time. If the advocate agrees to serve, the advocate and client would then enter into a written agreement concerning reimbursement for expenses and any additional compensation. Unless destitute, the client is always expected to make at least some significant contribution to the reimbursement and compensation of his or her advocate.

A client who has taken a vow of poverty may not have the personal resources to reimburse or compensate an advocate. Since the protection and vindication of rights is a genuine need, however, the institute to which the vowed person belongs has a responsibility to provide for this need (canons 619 and 670 CIC and canon 421 CCEO).

Having selected an advocate, the client executes a mandate appointing the advocate, specifying whether the advocate also serves as procurator, and delineating the extent and limitations of the advocate's responsibility. That mandate is then presented to the ecclesial authority involved in the dispute.

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Reimbursement For Expenses

It is just and reasonable that advocates be reimbursed fully for expenses incurred in representing a client (e.g. travel, lodging, telephone, postage, etc.).

In situations in which a client may not be able to provide such reimbursement, that client should not thereby be placed at a disadvantage in securing adequate defense for his or her canonical rights. No accused person should be denied adequate defense because of lack of funds. Therefore, when a client is not able to fully reimburse an advocate for expenses, the ecclesial authorities involved are strongly encouraged to provide reasonable reimbursement for documented expenses.

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Fees For Services

In addition to reimbursement for expenses, a canonist may charge fees for services. Such fees are appropriate when advocacy is performed as a service independent of any diocesan or other institutional agency, or if the canonist's service as advocate is done outside of employment time.

Fees may be charged on a daily or hourly basis, or as a flat fee for specific services. Depending on the nature of the case, economic circumstances, and the expertise required, a fee within the range of $50 to $100 per hour is reasonable. A canonist can charge a lower fee for persons of meager income.

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Specific Types Of Cases

Policies for reimbursement and compensation of advocates need to take into account the unique nature of different canonical processes. It is appropriate to distinguish the following:

  1. In all penal cases, whether judicial or administrative in nature, the ecclesial authority initiating the penal action has a responsibility to be sure the right of defense of the accused is fully protected (canons 1481, §2 and 1723 CIC and canons 1139, §2 and 1474 CCEO). Thus, in penal cases, the ecclesial authority involved should fully reimburse the expenses of the advocate when the accused is unable to do so. Likewise, when the accused is unable to do so, the authority bringing the penal action also should provide for the reasonable compensation for the advocate's time and expertise. In this way, the accused can be confident of securing an appropriate defense.
  2. In processes to remove a person from ecclesiastical office or employment, to impose a transfer of a person to a different ecclesiastical office, or to declare a cleric impeded from the exercise of orders, the ecclesial authority initiating the action should fully reimburse the expenses of the advocate for the one against whom the process was initiated when that person is unable to do so. A moderate stipend also should be provided to compensate the advocate's time in these cases.
  3. In other canonical processes, plaintiffs who seek administrative recourse or who bring an action against individuals, groups or juridic persons shall bear the burden of reimbursing and compensating their own advocates. The parties to a dispute can stipulate payment of court costs as part of the resolution of the case. 
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Pro Bono Services

In the service of justice and as an aspect of professional responsibility, a canonist should be willing to provide a certain amount of advocacy on a pro bono basis.

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