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Deleting Parliamentary Procedure from by-laws

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Guest Juanita

Our non-profit executive committee is reviewing our by-laws for changes/updates. It has been stated that it is no longer necessary for by-laws to state that, "The most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order shall be the parliamentary authority for all matters of procedure not specifically addressed herein," which is stated in our current by-laws. I haven't read nor heard of this before. Which is correct?

Thank you in advance for your help.

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Most of us on this forum will strongly recommend that you use that language or similar language adopting RONR or some other parliamentary manual as your parliamentary Authority. Without adopting some manual as your parliamentary authority, you have no authority and meetings can become rather chaotic with different members having different ideas of what should be the proper procedure in a given situation.

 

I'm on my cell phone, so I hope that someone will post a link to the currently suggested wording from the current edition of RONR 

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You need to have some parliamentary authority, unless your bylaws are so comprehensive that they effectively become a parliamentary authority.

That said, there are alternatives to Robert's Rules, most notably the Standard Code. I'm not endorsing these alternatives, only pointing out that they exist, and that they will suffice if the group has some sort of anti-Robert's-Rules animus.

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2 hours ago, Guest Juanita said:

Our non-profit executive committee is reviewing our by-laws for changes/updates. It has been stated that it is no longer necessary for by-laws to state that, "The most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order shall be the parliamentary authority for all matters of procedure not specifically addressed herein," which is stated in our current by-laws. I haven't read nor heard of this before. Which is correct?

If you wish to continue to use RONR as your parliamentary authority (and I would advise that you do so), it is necessary to state as much. As Mr. Brown notes, however, the recommended wording in RONR is slightly different than your current wording.

It would also be possible to adopt a different authority, or even to adopt no authority at all, although that is a very bad idea.

1 hour ago, Benjamin Geiger said:

You need to have some parliamentary authority, unless your bylaws are so comprehensive that they effectively become a parliamentary authority.

This is not strictly correct. There is no rule which requires a society to adopt a parliamentary authority, although it is certainly highly advisable to do so.

Edited by Josh Martin

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Just now, Josh Martin said:

There is no rule which requires a society to adopt a parliamentary authority, although it is certainly highly advisable to do so.

Fair point, well made. I worded it too informally and didn't communicate what I intended to.

There's no formal requirement to have a parliamentary authority, but an organization with no parliamentary authority will face issues as soon as any situation arises where there is significant disagreement about the rules of order. The group will have to either hash out their own rules of order (which may involve a lot of yelling) or look to an established parliamentary authority (which, if the authority is not already specified, may also involve a lot of yelling).

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2 hours ago, J. J. said:

I would note that, even if the clause is removed, your group still has the custom of using RONR.

True, but custom is only enough to make a parliamentary authority persuasive, not binding.

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3 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

True, but custom is only enough to make a parliamentary authority persuasive, not binding.

The rules in RONR are binding until the majority says otherwise (p. 19, ll. 6-9). 

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44 minutes ago, Benjamin Geiger said:

But if the group hasn't adopted RONR, that isn't binding either. It's a bit chicken-and-egg.

Even if they don't adopt RONR, they have a custom of using the rules in it.  Until the assembly decides to do something different, those rules are binding. 

This group started by establishing RONR in its bylaws.  Now it which not to have it formally adopted.  The rules that RONR established are now the custom of this assembly.  The assembly may to diverge from each rule established by custom by a majority vote.

 

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Following a particular practice prescribed by an applicable written rule is not at all the same thing as following a particular practice "as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were prescribed by a rule." It is, instead, following a particular practice because it is prescribed by a written rule, and hence does not establish the sort of "custom" referred to on page 19 of RONR (11th ed.).

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10 hours ago, J. J. said:

Even if they don't adopt RONR, they have a custom of using the rules in it.  Until the assembly decides to do something different, those rules are binding. 

This group started by establishing RONR in its bylaws.  Now it which not to have it formally adopted.  The rules that RONR established are now the custom of this assembly.  The assembly may to diverge from each rule established by custom by a majority vote.

The situation here isn’t never formally adopting RONR. The society has adopted RONR in its bylaws, and is considering removing it. If the society does so, that would seem to suggest that they do not intend for RONR to be binding on the society.

I’m also still uncertain on the role of custom regarding a parliamentary authority generally. It is correct that RONR says, “In some organizations, a particular practice may sometimes come to be followed as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were prescribed by a rule. If there is no contrary provision in the parliamentary authority or written rules of the organization, the established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 19)

On the matter of a parliamentary authority in particular, however, RONR says “Although it is unwise for an assembly or a society to attempt to function without formally adopted rules of order, a recognized parliamentary manual may be cited under such conditions as persuasive. Or, by being followed through long-established custom in an organization, a particular manual may acquire a status within the body similar to that of an adopted parliamentary authority.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 17)

It is not clear to me, based on this language, that custom alone makes a parliamentary authority, in its entirety, binding upon the society. Rather, it seems to me that a particular practice within the parliamentary authority that the assembly had traditionally followed would become an “established custom,” or would possibly even become a precedent through a ruling of the chair or an appeal. For other practices within the same manual, however, it seems to me that the general rule would apply - that “A deliberative assembly that has not adopted any rules is commonly understood to hold itself bound by the rules and customs of the general parliamentary law—or common parliamentary law (as discussed in the Introduction)—to the extent that there is agreement in the meeting body as to what these rules and practices are.” RONR could (and probably should) still be considered persuasive in such cases, but it would not be binding on the assembly.

Although I grant that, since a custom is not that binding anyway (since it may be set aside by a majority vote), this distinction may not be particularly meaningful.

Edited by Josh Martin

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25 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

The situation here isn’t never formally adopting RONR. The society has adopted RONR in its bylaws, and is considering removing it. If the society does so, that would seem to suggest that they do not intend for RONR to be binding on the society.

I’m also still uncertain on the role of custom regarding a parliamentary authority generally. It is correct that RONR says, “In some organizations, a particular practice may sometimes come to be followed as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were prescribed by a rule. If there is no contrary provision in the parliamentary authority or written rules of the organization, the established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 19)

On the matter of a parliamentary authority in particular, however, RONR says “Although it is unwise for an assembly or a society to attempt to function without formally adopted rules of order, a recognized parliamentary manual may be cited under such conditions as persuasive. Or, by being followed through long-established custom in an organization, a particular manual may acquire a status within the body similar to that of an adopted parliamentary authority.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 17)

It is not clear to me, based on this language, that custom alone makes a parliamentary authority, in its entirety, binding upon the society. Rather, it seems to me that a particular practice within the parliamentary authority that the assembly had traditionally followed would become an “established custom,” or would possibly even become a precedent through a ruling of the chair or an appeal. For other practices within the same manual, however, it seems to me that the general rule would apply - that “A deliberative assembly that has not adopted any rules is commonly understood to hold itself bound by the rules and customs of the general parliamentary law—or common parliamentary law (as discussed in the Introduction)—to the extent that there is agreement in the meeting body as to what these rules and practices are.” RONR could (and probably should) still be considered persuasive in such cases, but it would not be binding on the assembly.

Although I grant that, since a custom is not that binding anyway (since it may be set aside by a majority vote), this distinction may not be particularly meaningful.

Well, as you have noted, the bylaws of this organization do adopt the current edition of RONR as its parliamentary authority, and so, as I attempted to say in my previous response, following a particular practice because it is prescribed by the organization's written rules does not establish the kind of "custom" referred to in RONR (11th ed.).

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7 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

 

 

It is not clear to me, based on this language, that custom alone makes a parliamentary authority, in its entirety, binding upon the society. Rather, it seems to me that a particular practice within the parliamentary authority that the assembly had traditionally followed would become an “established custom,” or would possibly even become a precedent through a ruling of the chair or an appeal. For other practices within the same manual, however, it seems to me that the general rule would apply - that “A deliberative assembly that has not adopted any rules is commonly understood to hold itself bound by the rules and customs of the general parliamentary law—or common parliamentary law (as discussed in the Introduction)—to the extent that there is agreement in the meeting body as to what these rules and practices are.” RONR could (and probably should) still be considered persuasive in such cases, but it would not be binding on the assembly.

Although I grant that, since a custom is not that binding anyway (since it may be set aside by a majority vote), this distinction may not be particularly meaningful.

They still have been following a particular practice for a number of years, even though it will no longer be a matter of following a written rule. 

There is a difference, though not much of one in practice, between some source being persuasive and some source being custom.

If an assembly wishes to make a decision on procedure, and it has no written rule or custom governing the matter, it may find some parliamentary authority, or other text, persuasive.  At that point, the assembly may choose to follow the persuasive text.  It would do so by majority vote, but until that vote, there is no rule. 

If an assembly wishes to make a decision on procedure, and it has a custom, but no written rule, governing the matter, the assembly would follow the custom.  The assembly may choose, at that point, decide not to follow the custom.  It would do so by majority vote, and as a result, that unwritten rule is changed.  The assembly has to do something not to follow that custom.

There can be some situations where it is meaningful.  If a parliamentary authority is adopted, it will not be an issue. 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Well, as you have noted, the bylaws of this organization do adopt the current edition of RONR as its parliamentary authority, and so, as I attempted to say in my previous response, following a particular practice because it is prescribed by the organization's written rules does not establish the kind of "custom" referred to in RONR (11th ed.).

The use of any practice over time creates a custom of using that practice.    It makes no difference if the rule was, at some point, written or not.  Whether or not that custom will be binding on the assembly in a given instance is a different question. 

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5 minutes ago, J. J. said:

The use of any practice over time creates a custom of using that practice.    It makes no difference if the rule was, at some point, written or not.  Whether or not that custom will be binding on the assembly in a given instance is a different question. 

I disagree. 

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11 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I disagree. 

The book indicates "a particular practice may sometimes come to be followed as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were a prescribed rule (p. 19, ll. 3-5)."

If the assembly, has, for example, for along period of time, required that only a member that voted on the prevailing side may move to reconsider (on motions that can be reconsidered), they have developed this as a custom.  That custom is identical to the rule in RONR, but by repeatedly following RONR on this point, it is still the custom. 

If the assembly were, for along period of time, required that any member  may move to reconsider (on motions that can be reconsidered), the have developed that custom, though it will fall to the ground if challenged (p. 19, ll. 9-14).  [And yes, that has very strong implications in this case.]

Basically, if the assembly had been doing a "particular practice" the same way for a long time creates the custom; if the way of doing things happens to correspond to a written rule, ll. 9-14 does not apply.   If the assembly did so because of a written rule, and the written rule goes away, the assembly has still been doing a  "particular practice" the same way for a long time.   The usage creates the custom, not the reason for the usage. 

I also find the 2000 edition of Mason, p. 36, persuasive. 

All that said, and as hinted at here, it is a terrible idea not to adopt a parliamentary authority.  First, there can be questions about what the specific custom for a given practice.  Second, it provides no stability of procedure; the majority can decide to a "particular practice" many different ways, possibly in the same meeting.

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2 hours ago, J. J. said:

The use of any practice over time creates a custom of using that practice.    It makes no difference if the rule was, at some point, written or not.  Whether or not that custom will be binding on the assembly in a given instance is a different question. 

It seems to me that a rule and a custom are two different things. The phrase "by rule or custom" appears several times in The Work, implying that the two are mutually exclusive.

A vote to remove a rule does not turn the rule into a custom.  It is a decision on the part of the assembly that it no longer intends to follow that particular rule. It doesn't make sense to me that they would need to vote again to remove a custom that never was, when the first vote clearly expressed their intent.

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3 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

It seems to me that a rule and a custom are two different things. The phrase "by rule or custom" appears several times in The Work, implying that the two are mutually exclusive.

A vote to remove a rule does not turn the rule into a custom.  It is a decision on the part of the assembly that it no longer intends to follow that particular rule. It doesn't make sense to me that they would need to vote again to remove a custom that never was, when the first vote clearly expressed their intent.

A rule is written and adopted.  A custom isn't and has a lower rank that an adopted rule.  That is the difference. 

Custom is created by doing a practice repeatedly over time.

Here is an example:

An assembly has no parliamentary authority.  It is said to operate under "general parliamentary law (p. xxix)." They have "particular practice" that conforms to the general parliamentary law, that has been used in the same way for a long period of time; the usage creates the custom. Following that, the assembly adopts RONR.

At the very least, RONR is going to be identical to the general parliamentary law is some aspects.  This "particular practice" is one of them; this custom is identical to the rule in RONR.  Just because they have adopted a written rule (in RONR) does not mean that they have the assembly no longer have a usage of the rule. It means that the written rule and the custom, which is the practice developed by usage, are identical. 

Now, we take away RONR, it is repealed as a parliamentary authority; the society still has the usage of this particular practice.  That usage creates the custom.

Maybe an example will be better:

1.  An assembly has no parliamentary authority.  However, when a main motion is made, the chair requires a second.  They have 10 meetings a year and has been around for 20 years.  Each of those meetings has had multiple main motions considered; each time a main motion has been considered, a second was required.  The practice of requiring a second has created a custom of requiring a second for main motions

2.  RONR is adopted; the rule is that a main motion requires a second.  It is still practice of the assembly to require a second for main motions..

3.  Five years later, the assembly repeals the adoption of RONR.  What has the practice been?  The practice is still that assembly requires a second for main motions.  That practice has created a custom that the assembly require a second for main motions.

That's off of page 19. 

It can also be expressed this way:

Keep doing what you're doing:

1.  Unless you decide not to, or; 

2. Unless you have a rule to the contrary.  :)

Edited by J. J.

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17 hours ago, J. J. said:

A rule is written and adopted.  A custom isn't and has a lower rank that an adopted rule.  That is the difference. 

Custom is created by doing a practice repeatedly over time.

Here is an example:

An assembly has no parliamentary authority.  It is said to operate under "general parliamentary law (p. xxix)." They have "particular practice" that conforms to the general parliamentary law, that has been used in the same way for a long period of time; the usage creates the custom. Following that, the assembly adopts RONR.

At the very least, RONR is going to be identical to the general parliamentary law is some aspects.  This "particular practice" is one of them; this custom is identical to the rule in RONR.  Just because they have adopted a written rule (in RONR) does not mean that they have the assembly no longer have a usage of the rule. It means that the written rule and the custom, which is the practice developed by usage, are identical. 

Now, we take away RONR, it is repealed as a parliamentary authority; the society still has the usage of this particular practice.  That usage creates the custom.

Maybe an example will be better:

1.  An assembly has no parliamentary authority.  However, when a main motion is made, the chair requires a second.  They have 10 meetings a year and has been around for 20 years.  Each of those meetings has had multiple main motions considered; each time a main motion has been considered, a second was required.  The practice of requiring a second has created a custom of requiring a second for main motions

2.  RONR is adopted; the rule is that a main motion requires a second.  It is still practice of the assembly to require a second for main motions..

3.  Five years later, the assembly repeals the adoption of RONR.  What has the practice been?  The practice is still that assembly requires a second for main motions.  That practice has created a custom that the assembly require a second for main motions.

That's off of page 19. 

It can also be expressed this way:

Keep doing what you're doing:

1.  Unless you decide not to, or; 

2. Unless you have a rule to the contrary.  :)

 

There is nothing at all in our guest's statement of facts which indicates that her organization established a custom to follow any rule or rules which happen to be identical to a rule or rules in RONR prior to adopting RONR as its parliamentary authority. You noted, very early on, that "This group started by establishing RONR in its bylaws."

Your initial assertion that an organization's adherence to the rules in RONR during the time when it is the organization's parliamentary authority establishes a custom to use such rules is simply incorrect. Following a particular practice because it is prescribed by an organization's written rules does not establish the kind of "custom" referred to in RONR (11th ed.).

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Since the question is about if specific language is required, and it seems that it is not strictly required, but strongly advised, perhaps the member that is saying it can be removed should just be given that answer. 

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2 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

 

There is nothing at all in our guest's statement of facts which indicates that her organization established a custom to follow any rule or rules which happen to be identical to a rule or rules in RONR prior to adopting RONR as its parliamentary authority. You noted, very early on, that "This group started by establishing RONR in its bylaws."

Your initial assertion that an organization's adherence to the rules in RONR during the time when it is the organization's parliamentary authority establishes a custom to use such rules is simply incorrect. Following a particular practice because it is prescribed by an organization's written rules does not establish the kind of "custom" referred to in RONR (11th ed.).

I disagree. That they have been generally following RONR, is implied in the question; nothing the question suggests that the assembly has not generally been following RONR.  

The question does not state that the assembly wishes to discontinue referring to RONR when there is a procedural question.

What ever the particular practice has been, no matter what the source of that practice is, should be adhered to, if it does not conflict with some written rule, until the majority decides otherwise. 

It is repeated usage that creates a practice, no matter if the reason for that usage is because it the assembly chooses to correctly follow an adopted rule, by misinterpreting an adopted rule, or because the society ignores, or is unaware of, an adopted rule.  That practice creates a custom, though that custom would fall to the ground in many circumstances.  The society can, by continuing to follow a practice in a circumstance, create a custom.  That custom might fall to the ground, when challenged, because it conflicts with a written rule, including the parliamentary authority, but it is still a "customary practice."  RONR does envision this, on p. 19, ll. 9-17.

To give an analogy, assume that, day in and day out for a decade, you drive to an intersection with a stop sign.  You stop all the time.   While it is required by law, it is your practice to stop there; by doing this for a decade, it is your customary practice. 

One day, the authorities take down the stop sign; you are no longer required to stop there by law.   You still have been stopping there for a decade, so that is still your customary practice.  You may choose, in the future, to follow your customary practice and stop there; you may choose not to follow what has been your customary practice.  It is, until that point, still your customary practice to stop at that stop sign. 

[I am waiting for someone to ask me, in effect, what happens if you have not been stopping at that stop sign.  :) ]

 

 

Edited by J. J.

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On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 3:43 PM, J. J. said:

I would note that, even if the clause is removed, your group still has the custom of using RONR.

 

On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 6:31 PM, Josh Martin said:

True, but custom is only enough to make a parliamentary authority persuasive, not binding.

Actually, in pursuing this I have been trying to convince Mr. Martin that he ought not agree that it is correct to say that adherence to the rules in an adopted parliamentary authority will establish a "custom", as that term in used in RONR, but perhaps to no avail.   

I fully understand that I will not persuade J.J. that this is the case.  :)

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1 hour ago, J. J. said:

One day, the authorities take down the stop sign; you are no longer required to stop there by law.   You still have been stopping there for a decade, so that is still your customary practice.  You may choose, in the future, to follow your customary practice and stop there; you may choose not to follow what has been your customary practice.  It is, until that point, still your customary practice to stop at that stop sign. 

 

If this municipality has a code authorizing tickets for failing to follow your established practice, unless you have formally renounced that practice, should I get a ticket the day the sign comes down if I don't stop?

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