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Dealing Effectively With Cheating Allegations
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There is near-universal agreement that the major bridge organizations (or “MBOs”) currently lack the structures and methods which would allow them to deal effectively with cheating accusations. I'd like to offer a proposal to fix that problem going forward. The goal is to establish a structure which respects the following six core principles:

1) Absolute confidentiality for those accused. It is essential that any player or pair accused of cheating be considered innocent until proven guilty, so all proceedings should be completely confidential unless there is a conviction. (Of course, an accused would be free to waive the right to confidentiality and initiate a public discussion.)

2) Limited confidentiality for accusers. Many hands which appear suspicious are in fact completely above-board. However, MBOs can't keep the game clean if players won't record suspicious hands for fear of making an unwarranted cheating charge. Therefore, all information submitted to an MBO must be kept confidential until and unless there is enough evidence to warrant a disciplinary proceeding (which I'll call a “trial” for short).

3) Review by a group of world-class players. Each MBO should have a standing review panel of world-class players who analyze every recorded hand. My standard for defining “world-class player” is high-- a team consisting of that player's peers must have a good chance to win any tournament it enters. Only that level of player is capable of fully and fairly evaluating the suspiciousness of other players' bridge decisions.

4) Speedy trial procedures. If the review panel determines that accumulated evidence against a player or pair warrants a trial, that trial should be scheduled and completed as soon as possible.

5) Fairness to the accused. MBOs must bend over backwards to make sure that those accused have every opportunity to explore and refute any evidence presented against them and to effectively present evidence and testimony on their own behalf.

6) Finality of result. This entire system must be designed in a manner such that the trial verdict is effectively final. We must keep these cases out of the courts because litigation can be expensive and time-consuming.

 

With all of that in mind, here is a structure that I'd like to see implemented by the ACBL (which happens to be my home MBO) for dealing with potential cheating cases from the North American Bridge Championships:*

Recorder Form Review: A committee of world-class players headed by Larry Cohen would review confidential recorder forms filed during NABCs and would work with management to investigate suspicious players or pairs. I'll call this Larry Cohen committee the "LCC." If the LCC believes that the accumulated evidence “clearly and convincingly” indicates cheating, it would commence an arbitration against the accused on behalf of the ACBL. The LCC would designate a prosecutor (who could be a member of the LCC).

The Arbitrators: A panel of three arbitrators would be selected from a list of all world-class players who are willing to volunteer their time; that list would be maintained by the LCC.  In order to assure an overall balanced panel, one arbitrator would be selected by the LCC (but could not be a member of the LCC), one would be selected by the accused, and the third arbitrator would be selected by the first two. Conviction would require a majority vote (so would likely require convincing the unaffiliated arbitrator).

The Proceedings: The accused would have the following rights:

– To be represented by counsel, regardless of whether that counsel is an attorney

– To cross-examine all prosecution witnesses

– To call witnesses and introduce evidence

– To make an opening and closing argument

The arbitrators would consult with both sides and implement a schedule, proceeding as quickly as possible without compromising the rights of the accused.

The Deliberations: After hearing all of the evidence and arguments, the panel would deliberate until each arbitrator is completely confident in the correctness of his own vote. A vote of guilty must be supported by “clear and convincing” evidence. If the verdict is guilty, the panel's findings would be made public. Otherwise, the entire proceeding would be sealed permanently.

The End: Every ACBL member would need to consent to binding arbitration by the above procedures as a condition of membership. (A binding arbitration will only be overturned by a court if there is some egregious due process violation; courts will virtually never revisit the substance of the accusations if the procedures followed were fair and consensual. Thus, the results of such arbitrations would be final for all intents and purposes.)

* Some of my thoughts rely heavily on Mark Friedlander's post:

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/an-arbitration-procedure-to-adjudicate-allegations-of-cheating/

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