Dan Romm

Improving the Appeal Process

After giving the matter considerable reflection, I am ready to respond to Adam Wildavsky’s magnanimous request for feedback (in his comment to the 8/10/10 article on my BBO bridge blog). I propose the following revisions to the process. Some may already be included, but if so they need to be enforced since they were not followed at the appeal that I attended.

1. Any alleged fact that is in dispute must be disallowed unless corroborated by the ruling director or by a MAJORITY of the people present at the incident.

Agreed, this would permit dishonesty to prevail in some cases, but this is unavoidable. In the current process dishonesty prevails far more often than it would if my suggestion is adopted since at least two people would need to be dishonest rather than one as things now stand. It would also preclude the committee from having to decide issues of integrity (for which knowing how to play bridge is not a relevant qualification).

As an aside, I notice that in the overseeing panel’s review of my case a contention of my opponent (namely that I had made an inappropriate remark or gesture that gave UI to my P) was listed as a ‘fact’ although untrue, disputed by me (vehemently) and my partner, unsubstantiated by the director or any other party, and even partially recanted by the person making the false assertion.

2. The ruling director must be present at the hearing.

This may place a hardship on the director, but should be included as part of the duties for which he is being paid.

3. Any person who is a personal acquaintance of, or has had private dealings with, any of the disputants apart from being an occasional opponent at the bridge table must recuse himself or herself from the proceedings. Failure to do so should result in disciplinary action and an automatic nullification of the hearing should subsequent facts reveal that this wasn’t done. (Due to the vehemence with which one of the committee members grilled me, I suspect that he was far from impartial.)

4. A member of the rules committee (or an equivalent authority) must attend the proceedings to give guidance and explanation as to the interpretation and application of any relevant rule.

5. Inasmuch as the appeal committee is merely a first step beyond an individual’s ruling (the director), its decision should NOT be the final one.

Any party should have the right to further review by a standing board of committee members (i.e. – the committee currently headed by Adam Wildavsky) since the initial committee is nothing more than a makeshift collection of spontaneously assembled available bridge players who must decide without the benefit of an earlier committee’s opinion. In our judicial system, an initial court’s ruling is never deemed final and is subject to judicial review for procedural and/or substantive errors.

6. One should be allowed to submit a written account in lieu of attending the hearing. Furthermore, a disputant should be permitted to leave the hearing at any time. Either action should be allowed WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

7. The burden of proof should be on the party disputing the director’s ruling. Furthermore, if one side must be regarded as the defendant and the other the plaintiff, clearly it is fairer that the one disputing the ruling be deemed the de facto defendant. (The opposite was done in my case).

8. The appeal committee should receive a special instruction to avoid the appearance of bias toward the better known player or players.

For some reason that I don’t fathom, it seems to be natural to assume the better bridge player should get the benefit of any doubt. I glean this from the many (at least eight) occasions in which others have complained to me that this was the case and the additional fact that no well-known bridge player of my acquaintance has ever been unhappy with an outcome except when it was in favor of another equally well known player. Since committee members vary from tournament to tournament it is reasonable to assume that some bias might occasionally enter the proceedings. An explicit warning, although not a guarantee, would go a long way toward dispelling the current suspicion that bias is a regular occurrence. Along the same lines, I have twice been advised by well-meaning directors against paying to appeal rulings (a mandatory$50 charge was in effect) in favor of international stars regardless of the merits of my case since I “had no chance to win.”


9. No disputant is allowed to plead his or her case to any relevant party other than the ruling director before the hearing commences. Doing so will result in automatic rejection of the appeal (if the appellant) or automatic upholding of the appeal (if the appellee). This is the equivalent of jury tampering.


10 . Any player should be allowed only a limited number of appeals (as is done in pro football), both annually and over his or her lifetime.

This would prevent an abuse of the system by those who are constantly seeking an unfair advantage by learning how to “work the process.”

11 . If the intent to appeal is not made clear to the director while the outcome of the deal is still pending then it will be disallowed.

Otherwise, double jeopardy comes into play. In my case the opponent had a fifty-fifty chance to get an excellent result, in which case no appeal would have been filed. Only after it turned out otherwise did he proceed with his complaint.


I believe these suggestions are necessary, reasonable, practical, easily implementable, and a good beginning step toward tightening up a somewhat loose process. They are conscientiously offered for your consideration and I applaud your willingness to solicit and entertain ideas from the bridge playing population at large.



Dan Romm


Judy Kay-WolffDecember 16th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Brilliant! I concur.

The direction appeals committees seem to be going are from bad to worse and your points are well taken. It is high time that immediate attention is made to your analysis and fair suggestions as the process continues to slither downhill steadily.

I was an innocent victim of an eggregious ruling about four or five years ago and it took me sixteen months to at least get the AWMW removed. The way the situation was handled was disgraceful. I was never told my legal rights until I engaged a lawyer.

Good luck. We need more people like you to speak up.


dannyDecember 16th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

On point 3, I think what you ask for is near impossible. I am a member of the NAC, and I looked at a random earlier national to see how many cases I would need to recuse myself from. The answer was 7 out of 8. Many former teammates, some people who I have had dinners with at Nationals or locally.

We as frequent committee members, are also frequent NABC attendees. It is inevitable we will be more than acquaintences with many of the people we see before us. If there is a conflict of interest that would inhibit a fair ruling, we will be the first to recuse ourselves.

Bill CubleyDecember 17th, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Adding to #1- all claims must include that the claimer repeat word for word the claim made originally and any ruling should proceed from that basis-not from rebuttal to an opponent’s dirctor call/challenge.

Dan RommDecember 18th, 2011 at 6:46 am

I erroneously stated that I was replying to a request on my BBO blog. I have no such blog. Adam’s request appeared on this blog (see below). My apologies to the outstanding Masterpoint Press personnel responsible for maintaining this site.

Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Hi Dan,

In response to Danny, concerning recusing oneself, when a possible conflict of interest occurs, your answer is one we would all like to hear, but what about the actual committee member, not you, who makes that decision.

To hope for, much less be confident of, such a person as you feel all or at least close to all committee members believe, reminds me of some who still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

I am afraid you are just too optimistic when you are fighting the human condition of wanting to be of service to a friend or maybe just an acquaintance to one for whom you have acquired respect.

In natural law that is what lawyers do (voir dire) in order to determine jury duty on his particular case, and to just allow regular appeals members to pick and choose when they will or will not serve is close to committing legal suicide.

Furthermore with professionalism in such full bloom and especially at high-level tournaments the condition discussed above has grown out of proportion in importance.

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