Monday, August 12, 2019


It has been two weeks since I made a posting on this blog. This is because there has been nothing new to report or discuss. So, I am checking in today to let you know I am still here. We are all awaiting the start of mediation next month, 4 September, to be exact.

The mediation is to be guided by Charleston attorney Thomas J. Wills, IV. See his website here . This blurb says he has mediated over 4,000 cases. I'll bet he has never met one as this. It will test his skill and patience as a renown mediator of civil litigation. As they say, we shall see.

What's to mediate? Good question. The basic division between the two sides is the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017. That document declared three majority orders in its conclusion:  1) 8 local churches [actually 7] owned their properties unencumbered by trust; 2) 28 [actually 29] local church properties are owned by the Episcopal Church; 3) Camp St. Christopher is owned by the Church diocese. 

The independent Diocese of South Carolina and the Church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, took opposite positions on the SCSC decision. On Mar. 23, 2018, DSC petitioned Judge Edgar Dickson in "Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction and Other Relief" to decide on his own the issues involved in the SCSC decision, namely the local property ownership. In effect, this would discard the SCSC decision and allow Dickson the freedom to award the local properties to DSC. On the other hand, TECSC submitted to Dickson, on May 8, 2018, a petition for the execution of the SCSC decision and for the appointment of a special master. In short, DSC refused to recognize the SCSC decision while TECSC asked the judge to implement the decision.

The other major issue at stake is the Betterments suit. On Nov. 19, 2017, DSC entered a suit against TEC/TECSC claiming reimbursements for improvements made on the local properties in question. On Dec. 15, 2017, TECSC asked the judge to dismiss this suit. Judge Dickson held a hearing on the suit, on July 23, 2019, and rendered no decision about it.

However, Dickson did make one major settlement in that July 23 hearing. He implemented the first of the three orders in the SCSC decision by having both sides agree to the provision that the 8 local churches listed would be recognized as fully owning their properties. Interestingly enough, right after taking the 8 off the table, he called for mediation between the two sides on "all" issues (except, of course the one he had just removed). By taking away the first SCSC order and leaving the other two (29 parishes and the Camp), he removed one of the bargaining chips from TEC/TECSC and weakened their position. 

What is left on the circuit court docket to mediate is Betterments, the disposition of the 29, and the disposition of the Camp. Since the 29 and the Camp have already been settled by the SCSC decision (res judicata), this leaves only one big issue to decide, Betterments. 

One should recall that mediation has already been tried. Federal judge Richard Gergel ordered mediation in 2017. The talks were confidential but we can see that absolutely nothing came of them. The two sides met, very briefly, on Nov. 7, 2107, Dec. 4, 2017, and Jan. 12, 2018. We do know from the court record that TECSC proposed a protocol of discussions between TECSC and the 29 parishes. This did not occur so we may safely assume DSC refused the proposal. This is the only known event in that mediation and it amounted to nothing. Why the mediation failed we cannot know at this point but one should bear in mind that DSC was preparing to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court rejected the appeal six months after the third mediation session. The mediation did not resume although it remained technically open.

It seems to me reasonable to expect nothing to come of mediation, again. There is no common ground. DSC cannot even decide its position on who owns the 29 properties. In its petition for clarification, it is arguing TEC does not own the properties. In its Betterments suit, it is arguing TEC does own the properties. Besides, DSC has never shown the slightest interest in giving anything to the Church side. 

Bottom line---history shows us one should not hold out much hope of a compromise settlement between DSC and TEC. I for one believe this matter will have to be settled by the courts.

On another note, I visited my brother and sister in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, last week and was there when the state-wide primary election occurred and the ICE arrests happened the next day. As for the election, the main takeaway was a rabid attachment among most white people of Mississippi for President Trump. I was amazed at how all of the Republican candidates competed with each other on who was closer to Trump. In MS, and all of the lower south, parties have become racialized with whites overwhelmingly Republican and blacks Democrats. With whites having a majority of the vote in the south, we can expect a landslide sweep for Trump across the lower south in next year's presidential election. 

As for the ICE raids on the chicken processing plants around Jackson, the overall local reaction was indifference. Of course, only the (hispanic) workers were arrested. The (white) plant officers, who had actually employed the undocumented laborers, were not touched. The only local officials who went on TV to decry the Gestapo treatment were the school superintendents (I thank God for them) who admirably defended the rights of all children. All of the other officials cried "law and order." In the south, we all know what that term means.

In case you are wondering about the state of my garden, it is in the late summer doldrums (my grandparents called the first two weeks of August the Dog Days of summer). It has been too hot lately to work much outside (95 degrees today). The stars of the garden at this time of the year are always the ornamental grasses, of which I am fond. They put up feathery plumes to produce seed for propagation. Here is one part of my garden in this morning's sun:

The ornamental grass on right is Zebra Grass. The ground cover is Andorra Juniper. The green bushes in front are gardenia. The round shrubs on left are yaupon holly.

Around my house, the children have settled down into another school year and football season is gearing up. My one and only granddaughter returns to school in California this week into a full slate of Tenth Grade AP courses including French II and advanced European history. I am proud and delighted. Bonne chance chère petite-fille. Je t'aime.

My best wishes to you and yours in these waning days of summer.