Saturday, May 14, 2016

IN SAN JOAQUIN, 4th Edition (14 May)

Original post, April 6:     The Episcopal Church Diocese of San Joaquin has completely prevailed in the California Fifth District Court of Appeals. The court handed down its decision on April 5. See the posting of March 3, "San Joaquin Hearing in Appeals Court, March 9."
The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin appealed a lower court decision.

The appeals court affirmed the lower court's finding, particularly that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical.

The defendants have 30 days to ask for a rehearing. Afterwards they may appeal to the California Supreme Court.

See the article at the Episcopal Café website.

With this decision, the Episcopal Church has won the court contests in California between the competing dioceses. If the defendants appeal, there is little likelihood they will reverse the heavy weight of the body of opinion already entered by the California courts.

I will return soon with more thoughts on the April 5 decision.

SECOND EDITION, April 10:     For background, see the post of January 1, 2016, "Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin---Court Victory at Hand."

Thoughts on the April 5, 2016, decision of the Appeals Court. Here are what I see as the most important points of this decision vis à vis South Carolina:

1-The CA court applied neutral principles and found all in favor of the Episcopal Church, and without getting involved in the internal matters of the Church. Obviously this means following neutral principles does not necessarily help the secessionist party.

2-The court issued its opinion "de novo." This is something the TEC lawyers asked the SC supreme court to do, rather than remanding to the lower court.

3-The decision said, as all California courts have consistently ruled, the Episcopal Church is hierarchical. A diocese must accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. The Church is governed by the General Convention. The court ruled this although they followed neutral principles. Thus, in SC the justices could both follow neutral principles and judge TEC to be hierarchical.
The secessionist lawyers in SC argued that the diocese was always an autonomous and self-governing unit and free to disregard the Episcopal Church at will and to disassociate from TEC. The CA appeals judges directly rejected this argument in their view of hierarchy.

4-The appellate judges said the Quincy case, in Illinois, had no bearing on the case in California. The Anglican side had argued that the Quincy case set the standard for the whole country to follow. The Illinois state courts had ruled entirely in favor of the schismatic diocese and against TEC. The CA appeals court said the Quincy case involved Illinois law only and had no bearing on California law. It stands to reason the SC justices could follow the same view, that state law in one state is not necessarily applicable to another state. This kills a primary argument on the secessionist side, that the pro-schismatic Quincy decision set the precedent for the nation.

5-The CA courts ruled that Schofield was subject to TEC's Constitution and Canons, and once inhibited (Jan. 11, 2008) and deposed (Mar. 12, 2008), he had no right to act as the bishop of the diocese. All official acts of his after then were ultra vires, that is, illegal.
This is a problem for TEC in the SC case. The most controversial actions, Mark Lawrence's issuance of the quit claim deeds, occurred while he was the legal bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese. They also occurred after the diocesan convention had voted to end accession to the canons (but not the constitution) of TEC. Thus, whether Lawrence had the authority to do what he did is a problematical issue, as Chief Justice Toal expressed so well in the Sept. 23 hearing. San Joaquin was a simple case; Schofield had no authority after his removal when he tried to retitle the properties.
This will all return to the question of whether the Episcopal Church is hierarchical. If the SC justices rule it is, then they can judge the unilateral diocesan and bishop's actions to be in violation of TEC's C and C and therefore to be ultra vires. CA courts consistently ruled TEC to be hierarchical.

What happens next?
The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin has 30 days to request a rehearing in the appeals court. To get this, they would have make a compelling case that something earlier was in error. After 30 days, ADSJ may appeal to the CA supreme court. Again, to get that court to take the case, they would have to make a good argument for review. It is unlikely either the appeals court or the state supreme court will take up this case again since it has been heard four times in CA state courts already and every outcome was virtually the same, completely in favor of the Episcopal Church and diocese. 
A stay is in place now freezing most of the properties and assets in the hands of the Anglican side. If they do not appeal, or if the high courts refuse to accept the appeals, the Anglican side will have to hand over the properties and assets forthwith to the Episcopal diocese.
On April 5, in announcing the appeals court decision, the Anglican diocese made no comment about what it would do next. They have until May 5 to do so.

What direct effects will the San Joaquin judgment have on South Carolina? It is hard to tell coming as late in the SC matter as it does. The hearing in SC was last September 23. As a usual practice, the justices meet in a couple of weeks afterwards and arrive at a choice by majority vote. Then one in the majority writes a decision for publication but all justices in the majority may have input. This may take awhile. Also, the dissenting justice or justices, if any, have the right to issue their separate opinions. This also takes time. Only after all the justices are satisfied with the finality of the written decision are they released to the public. No doubt this is where the SC supreme court is now, in the composition stage. This case is very large, complicated, and important. Surely the justices will be in no rush and will want to get it right. They know the significance of this decision, on SC and on the country. The California court cases may have some bearing on the final written orders, but I imagine the SC decision in the Church case was made months ago.

State court decisions in the issue of the relationship of Episcopal Church and the dioceses are all over the place. Pennsylvania and California were entirely favorable to the Episcopal Church side. They are probably settled for good. On the other end of the spectrum, the Diocese of Quincy case, in Illinois, was entirely in favor of the secessionist diocese and against the Church. Fort Worth has been mixed, but is still in the works and appears to be leaning to the schismatic diocese. This leaves South Carolina in an even more important place as, in a sense, the decider. It will be the first time a state supreme court will rule on this issue.

THIRD EDITION (April 21):  On 20 April, the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin filed a "Petition for Rehearing" with the CA Fifth District Court of Appeals on the grounds the lower court did not follow neutral principles properly.

FOURTH EDITION (May 14):  On May 4, the Appeals Court denied the Anglican diocese's petition for a rehearing. On May 13, ADSJ filed a petition with the California Supreme Court on appeal of Judge Black's 2014 order deciding all in favor of the Episcopal Church side. The supreme court has until July 14 to announce whether it will accept the petition. If it refuses, Black's decision will be left standing as the law and ADSJ will have to turn over all rights and assets to the Episcopal diocese. It is unlikely the state supreme court will take the case that has already been rejected by the appeals court. Regarding Episcopal Church cases in the state, the CA Supreme Court has ruled time and again in favor of the Church diocese.