Thursday, June 11, 2015


The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Diocese of South Carolina reported today that the U.S. District Court in Charleston is proceeding with the case vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. Judge Houck, who originally handled the case in 2013, held a hearing today with the attorneys.

DSC lawyers had filed a motion with Judge Houck to dismiss the case. They must now file a brief supporting their motion by June 30. Bishop vonR will then have 15 days in which to file a counter brief. Thus we can expect the two sides' briefs to be in the public record just over a month from now. These briefs will lay out the main arguments the lawyers will follow in their courtroom presentations in the U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Judge Houck is under direction of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider this case. The judges of that court ruled in March he had used the wrong principle in his 2013 judgment and should have used the Colorado River rule. This makes it much more difficult for a federal court to refuse to adjudicate a case involving federal law by deferring to a state court. Bishop vonR is charging Lawrence with violation of a federal law, the Lanham Act, which concerns trademark infringement. Bishop vonR claims he is the one and only true bishop of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina.

Judge Houck can still dismiss the case, but his window of allowance is much smaller than it was in 2013. He would have to present very compelling and clear reasons why he would do so. At this point, that does not seem likely.

One interesting point of discussion today concerned the case moving in the state supreme court. Judge Houck asked attorney Tisdale, chancellor of ECSC, whether the appeal to the supreme court should interfere with the action in the federal court. Tisdale said no; and Judge Houck agreed. Thus, apparently, the judge does not see the state court action as impacting on his court.

Under the U.S. constitutional system, federal courts are superior to state courts and are responsible for adjudicating federal law which, by the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, takes precedence over state and local law.