WBL CONDUCT & ETHICS GUIDELINES

These guidelines summarize basic information about WBL disciplinary proceedings.  They are intended to provide informal guidance to anyone who may be a participant in a conduct and ethics (C&E) proceeding.  Disciplinary proceedings are governed by the ACBL rules.  For complete information about the standards that govern these proceedings, and copies of the forms that should be used, participants should refer to the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations and the ACBL Guidelines for Disciplinary Proceedings, both of which may be found on the ACBL web site (www.acbl.org).      

 

A.   How is the C&E process initiated?

 

1.  C&E proceedings are initiated in one of three ways:  (i)  by a tournament director or a club manager following a sanctioned event; (ii) by the president of the unit after a player memo has been filed with the unit; or (iii) by the president of the unit based on a recommendation of the  unit recorder.  A complaint based on a single incident of misconduct must be initiated within 60 days of the incident.  A complaint based on multiple incidents that constitute a pattern of misconduct must be based upon actions occurring within 5 years of the date on which the complaint is filed.

 

2.  A tournament director or club manager may start the C&E process on his own initiative, or may act on the basis of a player memo that describes an incident.  If the director or manager believes that a violation of the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations has occurred, and that some form of disciplinary action may be warranted, he will generally refer the matter to the unit C&E committee for further consideration.  After the matter is referred, the C&E chairman (or designee) will assemble a committee in accordance with ¶¶ A6 and A7.  However, a tournament director may decide that the matter needs to be considered on an expeditious basis during a tournament, in which case the matter will be heard by a tournament disciplinary committee and the process will be governed by section C, below.

 

3.  The unit recorder should investigate after a player memo has been filed with the unit, and discuss the matter with the participants involved.  He may attempt to settle the matter informally.  He may recommend to the president that a disciplinary proceeding should be initiated and assist the president in preparing any complaint that may be filed with the C&E committee.  He may consider the prior disciplinary record of the subject of the player memo in deciding whether to recommend disciplinary action.

 

4.  The unit president should determine whether the matter should be referred to the C&E committee.   The president should act after reviewing the information in the player memo and determining whether a violation of the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations has occurred and whether the facts justify referral of the matter for disciplinary action.  The president should also take into account any recommendation that the recorder may make, and the prior disciplinary record of the subject of the player memo.  (The president may delegate these responsibilities to any member of the unit board of directors).  The person filing the player memo and the subject of the memo should be notified as to how the president intends to proceed not later than 10 days after the memo is filed.   

 

5.  The president may attempt to settle the matter informally.  In a conduct case, this may include resolving the matter through an apology and obtaining an assurance that the conduct will not be repeated.  If the president decides that disciplinary action may be required, the president shall prepare a complaint and refer the matter to the C&E chairman for a hearing.

 

 6.  After a matter is referred to the unit C&E committee by a tournament director or club manager, or a complaint is filed with the unit C&E committee by the unit president or recorder, the C&E chairman shall assemble a committee to consider the complaint or referral as soon as possible.   In most cases, the committee will consist of 5 members.   Each committee member must be unbiased as to the personalities and issues involved.  Any individual who believes that he cannot judge the matter fairly or believes that his participation as a committee member would create an appearance of bias should not serve on the committee. 

 

7.  Once a complaint has been formally referred or filed, the parties to the proceeding are the person who filed the player memo (the complainant) and the subject of the player memo (the respondent).  Any party is entitled to have any member of the committee removed for cause.  A request for removal should be filed not later than three days prior to the hearing.  Removal for cause may be justified on the grounds that a member has personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or personal knowledge of disputed facts.  A member may also be removed for cause when the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would question his impartiality.  An allegation of bias or prejudice is insufficient unless it is supported by evidence.  When a member is challenged for cause, the remaining members of the committee are the sole judges of whether cause has been established.          

 

B.   What are the procedures for a hearing by the unit C&E committee?

 

1.  The parties are entitled to prompt notice in writing of the date, time, and place of the hearing, the membership of the committee, and of the right to be represented at the hearing.  The respondent is also entitled to receive in advance a statement of the charges, a copy of the player memo and any complaint, any written comments by the president, recorder, tournament director, or club manager, and a list of witnesses.     

 

2.  The respondent is not required to attend the hearing, but may do so and may bring someone to speak on his behalf or to assist in presenting his side of  the case.  The complainant is expected to attend.  If the complainant does not attend, the committee has discretion to drop the charges.   The hearing is not open to the public, and witnesses who are not parties may only be present when they are testifying. 

 

3.  Disciplinary proceedings are intended to be simple, informal, and expeditious, while protecting the rights of the parties.   The proceeding shall be managed by the C&E chairman (or designee).  The respondent shall be given sufficient time to present a case.  The C&E committee is not bound by legal rules of evidence in conducting hearings and may be liberal in receiving evidence.   The committee has discretion to establish such rules as it decides are proper for the gathering or presentation of evidence.  Discovery will generally not be permitted, but may be allowed if the need for it is clearly demonstrated.

 

4.  The hearing begins with a statement of the charges, usually presented by the official who referred the complaint or filed the complaint with the committee.   The complainant and the respondent shall then be given the opportunity to make brief opening statements.

 

5.   After these statements, if the parties agree on the facts, the committee may determine that no witnesses are necessary.  If there is a factual dispute, either side may present witnesses who may make brief statements.   Questions may be directed to the witnesses by either party or committee members.  The committee may limit the number of witnesses or participant statements it wishes to hear if it determines that additional testimony would be of little probative value.    

 

6.  The complainant and the respondent shall be given an opportunity to make brief closing statements. 

 

7.  After the closing statements, the committee shall meet privately to determine whether any violation of the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations has occurred and whether any sanction should be imposed.  All committee deliberations are privileged.  In resolving any disputed facts, the members of the committee shall use the standard of “clear and convincing” evidence.  The committee may not take prior violations of the respondent into account in determining whether the charges are true but may take prior violations into account in determining a penalty.   The committee shall issue its decision promptly.  If it decides to impose a sanction, it shall immediately notify the respondent of the sanction and its effective date.   

 

8.  The committee shall make a written report of the hearing, including a summary of the findings and the sanction, if any (unless the sanction is a private reprimand).  A copy of the report shall be sent to the unit recorder and to the ACBL office in Memphis.  A person who is disciplined shall be entitled to receive a copy of the written report not later than 7 days after the conclusion of the hearing, and shall be notified of his right to appeal any sanction imposed by the unit C&E committee to a District 6 appellate committee.   The complainant shall be notified of the committee’s decision but is not entitled to receive a copy of the report.  

 

C.  How does the process differ when a C&E matter must be heard at a tournament?

 

1.  If a tournament director decides that a matter must be considered during a tournament, the matter will be heard by a tournament disciplinary committee rather than the unit C&E committee.  The committee, generally consisting of 5 members, will be assembled by the tournament director, and the hearing will usually take place promptly following the conclusion of play.  The person charged (the respondent) and any complainant shall be notified (oral notice is sufficient).  Either party may challenge any prospective committee member for cause.  The hearing shall be conducted on an expeditious basis, and the taking of evidence may be abbreviated.   However, the respondent is entitled to be represented and to be given sufficient opportunity to present his case.

 

2.   A sanction imposed by a tournament disciplinary committee may not exceed 30 days suspension or 90 days probation.   A person who is disciplined is entitled to appeal any sanction imposed by a tournament disciplinary committee to the District 6 appellate committee.

 

D.   What kinds of disciplinary action may the unit C&E committee impose?

 

The committee has the discretion to decide on an appropriate sanction or to impose no sanction, depending on the nature and severity of the C&E violation.

 

1.  Conduct violations.   Examples of conduct for  which a sanction may be imposed include rudeness, violations of the unit dress code, harassing a tournament director, publicly belittling partner or an opponent at a bridge event, publicly making obscene, ethnic, sexist, or racial comments, intimidating or harassing another player, accusing another player of unethical behavior (other than to a tournament official), threatening or engaging in violent conduct,  initiating disciplinary action against another player with no reasonable basis, or misappropriating ACBL funds.      

 

2.  Ethics violations.  Examples of unethical behavior for which a sanction may be imposed include initiating discussion during a session about a board that both parties have played, frivolous psyching, knowingly playing an illegal convention, deliberately failing to disclose a partnership agreement in order to deceive the opponents, deliberately seeking a poor result on a hand, using a mannerism or a  hesitation in order to help partner or deceive an opponent, intentionally trying to see an opponent’s cards, seeking advance information about a board in play, prearranging a deal, intentionally looking at hand records before the conclusion of a session, or engaging in prearranged partnership collusion.

 

3.  Sanctions and reprimands.  Sanctions and reprimands that may be applied consist of the following:

 

·         Private Reprimand.  A private reprimand is not a matter of public record, and parties to the    proceeding who are notified of this action are required to keep it confidential.  

 

·         Public Reprimand.   A public reprimand is a matter of record.    

 

·         Probation.  Probation is available as a sanction for more serious conduct and ethics     violations and generally ranges from 30 to 90 days depending on the seriousness of the violation. 

 

·         Suspension.  A person subject to discipline for a serious violation that is a matter of 

record may be deprived of the rights of ACBL membership for a specified period of time

and generally ranges from 30 days to 2 years depending on the seriousness of the violation.  Suspension may apply to all events or only to certain specified events.

 

·         Expulsion.   A person subject to discipline for a very serious conduct violation or ethics violation may be indefinitely deprived of the rights of ACBL membership. 

 

·         Masterpoint Reduction.  When the sanction is a suspension of one year or more, or  

expulsion as a result of an ethics violation, masterpoint reductions must be included

           as part of the sanction.  

        

Approved by the WBL Board, December 19, 2001.