LITIGATION SUMMARY, APRIL 12
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus
A summary of pending litigation between the independent Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) derived from the public record as of April 12:
1. COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT (state court, St. George, Dorchester County, Judge Goodstein)
---July 7 and 8 set as dates for trial, Dorchester County Courthouse, St. George, Courtroom "D", approximately 10:00 a.m.
---DSC has issued at least 14 subpoenas "commanding" each person to appear at a time and place to give an official deposition. 1-George M. Hearn, Jr. (Apr. 11), 2-Holly Behre (Apr. 30), 3-Robert Black (Apr. 29), 4-Bishop John C. Buchanan (Apr. 16), 5-Lonnie Hamilton III (Apr. 29), 6-Bishop Dorsey Henderson (Apr. 24), 7-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (Apr. 23), 8-Melinda Lucka (Apr. 30), 9-Barbara Mann (Apr. 28), 10-Steve Skardon (Apr. 14), 11-James E. Taylor (May 2), 12-Bishop Charles vonRosenberg (Apr. 22), 13-Callie Walpole (Apr. 21), 14-Michael Wright (Apr. 25). Each was "served" by an official process server.
DSC gave no explanation of why these persons and not others were subpoenaed. Some of the above names have had no official capacity in a diocese.
---Judge Goodstein has an outstanding order to "stay," or stop, the taking of depositions. On January 17, DSC made a request to Goodstein for permission to take depositions. Goodstein denied the request pending a ruling from the appeals court. On March 18 the appeals court denied ECSC's appeal; and soon thereafter DSC asked Goodstein to lift the "stay." She did not respond to this request. In apparent disregard of Goodstein's "stay" order, DSC proceeded with issuing subpoenas to the fourteen persons listed above. On March 31, ECSC filed "TECSC's Notice and Motion to Quash Subpoenas Issued by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina and the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina and to Hold Them in Contempt of Court." This asked Goodstein to 1-stop the subpoenas, and 2-hold DSC in contempt of court. Goodstein has not responded to this request. On April 8, ECSC filed with Goodstein, "TECSC's Notice and Motion for Immediate Hearing" asking for an immediate stop to the subpoenas. Goodstein has not responded to this request.
---The first deposition, of Hearn, was to have taken place on Friday, April 11. We do not know yet whether it actually occurred.
---Goodstein has pending requests from both sides: DSC to lift "stay", and ECSC to stop the subpoenas and to hold DSC in contempt. We are awaiting her response.
2-SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT.
On January 13, ECSC filed an appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals asking the court to overturn Judge Goodstein's decision to disallow ECSC's request for the correspondence between Lawrence and Runyan. On February 6, DSC asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction over the appeals from Goodstein's court. ECSC did not object to this request. On March 18, the appeals court rejected ECSC's motion of appeal; and on March 25, ECSC filed a new petition with the appeals court for a rehearing. However, on April 4, the S C Supreme Court granted DSC's request and moved the appeals to the supreme court.
The South Carolina Supreme Court will now consider all appeals coming from Goodstein's court. ECSC did not oppose this.
3-THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.
On February 5, ECSC filed an appeal of U.S. judge Houck's decision to the Fourth Circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia. This is the regional court for appeals from U.S. district courts.
On April 7, ECSC filed "Opening Brief of Appellant [ECSC]." 53 pages. In this, ECSC emphasizes the Lanham Act, an act of Congress, and Serbian Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Lanham Act (see en.wikipedia.wiki/Lanham_Act) is a 1946 law providing the primary trademark statute for the U.S. It also forbids false advertising. The Serbian Orthodox case (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_Orthodox_Diocese_v_Milivojevich) is a Supreme Court ruling that the First and Fourteenth Amendments preclude the government from interfering in the internal matters of an hierarchical church. It emphasizes the principle of separation of church and state. It holds that internal decisions must be made by the institution, and not by civil courts.
ECSC's case is based on the claim that it alone is the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina and vonRosenberg is the only legal bishop of the diocese. It asserts that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and must be allowed to resolve its own internal differences.
DSC, on the contrary, holds that it is the only legal and legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina because it is and has always been a sovereign entity. Therefore, the Episcopal Church is not an hierarchical institution. DSC seeks to have "neutral" principles followed in court. This would judge property disputes "neutrally" between the two sides.
So far, there is no public record that DSC has responded to ECSC's action in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
4-EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH.
There is one other important legal action to bear in mind, the plan of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth to submit a writ in the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration of the Texas Supreme Court's decision against the diocese. The application will have to be made by June in order to be considered by the court for next year.