The “motion to appeal” is one of the least-known motions in Robert’s Rules of Order, and the most powerful. All of us are very familiar with the role of the chair of the meeting. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair has the duty of keeping things on track. He is responsible for announcing each item of business, recognizing speakers, and for protecting the group from wasting its time.
Chair is subject to whole group
Few people know, however, that the chair is subject to the authority of the whole group. If the chair says that a given subject is not relevant to the discussion, or refuses to recognize someone who is entitled to speak, any two members can appeal. When that happens, the group makes the decision.
Just say “appeal!”
All that is necessary is for a member to say, “I appeal the ruling of the chair.” If your group operates informally, the single word “Appeal!” will be enough. If another member then says “second,” the chair must turn to the group as a whole to decide. Appeals pertaining to language and decorum cannot be debated, but other types may be debatable.
Process to handle appeal
- Chair speaks first and explains the reason for the ruling.
- (If appeal can be debated) Members debate the matter, each member speaking once.
- Chair speaks again to sum up.
- Members vote. The chair may vote on the appeal.
- The outcome is decided by majority vote.
- If the majority vote in favor, the chair’s decision is upheld.
- If the majority vote against, the chair’s decision is overturned.
- If there is a tie, then the chair’s decision is upheld.
Sample script for “appeal”
Here is a sample script. If you would like help in developing a script for your unique situation, you can book an appointment here.
Member A: Chair, I rise to a point of order.
Chair: State your point.
Member A: My esteemed colleague has proposed that we donate $100,000 to the University to research ocean conditions in the north, off the City of Dinoview. This motion does not fall within the scope of our organizational charter.
Chair: The point is well taken, and this motion will not be taken up.
Member B: I appeal the Chair’s decision. I believe that this motion DOES fall within our scope.
Member C: Second!
Chair: Very well, since the decision of the chair has been appealed, the group will decide.
[Members debate. The chair speaks first, each member speaks once, and the chair may speak again at the end of the debate to sum up.]
Now we will vote on this matter. The Chair has ruled that the proposal to donate to the University to research ocean conditions is not within the scope of our organizational charter. All those who believe that this ruling should be sustained, please say “aye.” [Pause]
All those who believe that the ruling should not be sustained, please say “no.”
EITHER The “ayes” have it and the Chair’s decision is sustained. We will not consider this motion.
OR The “noes” have it and the Chair’s decision is not sustained. We will consider this motion.]
Why use the motion to appeal?
Every member of a local governmental body or nonprofit board of directors should know and use this motion. It keeps the power in the hands of the group, and ensures that the chair of the meeting always serves the group’s wishes. It is basic to our democratic process.