In parliamentary procedure, an appeal from the decision of the chair is used to challenge a ruling of the chair.
|In order when another has the floor?||Yes, at time of appealed ruling|
|Debatable?||Yes, but debate on the motion must be confined to its merits only, and cannot go into the main question except as necessary for debate of the immediately pending question|
|May be reconsidered?||Yes|
|Vote required||Majority in negative required to reverse chair's decision|
Explanation and Use
George Demeter notes that it "protects the assembly against the arbitrary control of the meeting by its presiding officer." The most common occasions for the motion to appeal are when the chair misassigns the floor or incorrectly recognizes a member; when the chair rules on a motion as not within the scope of the organization's purposes; when the chair rules on germaneness of an amendment; when he rules on points of order and questions of privilege; when he rules on the interpretation of words, phrases, provisions, etc.; and when the chair misapplies the rules of a motion (especially in reference to the rankings of motions). Members have no right to criticize a ruling of the chair unless they appeal from his decision.
In stating the appeal, the presiding officer always uses the form, "Those in favor of sustaining the decision of the chair..." rather than a biased form such as "Those in favor of sustaining the bylaws..." Appeals are debatable unless they relate to indecorum, the priority of business, or an undebatable question. If the reasons given for the appeal are convincing, the presiding officer may change his ruling accordingly, in which case the appeal is automatically dropped.
An appeal may be laid on the table but may not be referred to committee in legislative settings. Parliamentary authorities differ as to whether and when laying an appeal on the table takes the main subject with it, with Mason's Manual stating that the main subject does not go to the table with it; Demeter stating that the main subject goes to the table if the appeal involves the germaneness of an amendment to a question; and The Standard Code (TSC) appearing not to allow it to be laid on the table at all, listing only the motions to close debate, limit debate, and to withdraw as motions that can be applied to it.
Mason's Manual states, "In some states the ruling of the chair by tradition is given great weight, and appeals are not made lightly." But Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) notes that in some cases, the chair may welcome an appeal because it takes the onus off of him.
Appeals that cannot be entertained
RONR states that "when the chair rules on a question about which there cannot possibly be two reasonable opinions, an appeal would be dilatory and is not allowed." Demeter's Manual recommends using the mnemonic devices F, T, R, L and J, O, D to remember that no appeals can be taken from the Chair's rulings which arise out of known Facts, evident Truths, established Rules or operative Laws, but can be taken only from rulings which are based on his personal Judgment, Opinion or Discretion. Demeter explains:
|“||...should you waste the assembly's time or affront its intelligence by submitting such absurd appeals to the members to back up your rulings – that there are seven days in the week, or twelve months in the year, or the main motion can be debated, or any other law or rule, or any self-evident and incontestable facts?||”|
An assembly, then, cannot blatantly contravene a bylaws provision simply by raising an appeal and voting to interpret the provision to mean something different than its clear meaning. If such an appeal is moved, the chair should rule it out of order immediately, without opening it to debate or putting it to a vote.
- Demeter, George (1969). Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book, p. 126–127 (Demeter)
- Robert, Henry M. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th ed., p. 256 (RONR)
- Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 83
- National Conference of State Legislatures (2000). Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, p. 183
- Demeter, George (1969). Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book, p. 129
- Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th ed., p. 84
- National Conference of State Legislatures (2000). Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, 2000 ed., p. 181
- RONR, p. 258
- RONR, p. 256
- Demeter, George (1969). Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book, p. 131–132