Thursday, November 17, 2016


I am beginning to wonder if we have gone down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where in is out, up is down, left is right, night is day. Last week, the electorate chose the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party for the U.S. presidency, the only one never to have been elected to office, hold public office, or serve in the military. Moreover, we chose him over arguably the best qualified person ever to run for the presidency.
Now comes the news that Judge Diane Goodstein is one of the three finalists to be one of the five justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court. See Steve Skardon's comments and the Post and Courier article at .
We will all remember her as the circuit court judge presiding over the Church trial in July of 2014 who rendered an astonishing decision. It was appealed to the SC Supreme Court which held a hearing on it in September of 2015.
Goodstein has been in the running before for a seat on the state's high court, once in 2007. She has been in the public eye several times over the years since she was elected by the state legislature to be a circuit court judge in 1998. In 2008 questions were raised about her possible collusion with the Catholic Church to settle child abuse cases. Gregg Meyers, a lawyer for some of the clients, said "'Apparently all counsel were colluding to move settled cases to Dorchester County to get the cases to Judge Goodstein.'" A newspaper article said Meyers was "'accusing the church of delaying payment of $1.375 million and colluding with class counsel and Diane Goodstein, the circuit court judge in Dorchester County who presided over the class-action case.'" [Adam Parker, "Charges Fly in Suit over Catholic Diocese Settlement," Charleston Post and Courier, June 25, 2008, ].

Another matter concerned property. ["Judge, Husband Settle Bankruptcy Dispute," Summerville Patch, March 15, 2013, ]. Goodstein and her husband agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that they had improperly transferred real estate holdings involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Her husband, Arnold Goodstein, had built a large construction business but declared bankruptcy following the housing crash of 2007-08. Diane Goodstein did not admit guilt in the matter of the questionable transfer of property to her and disputed the claim of impropriety, yet she agreed to the half-million-dollar payment. [see also Charleston Post and Courier, Katy Stech, "Goodstein Details Downfall," July 24, 2010, ]. 

When it came time for Alan Runyan, the lead lawyer for the independent Diocese of South Carolina to bring lawsuit against the Episcopal Church, basically to claim ownership of the properties in question, he chose the circuit court in Dorchester County which had only two judges. He could have chosen the more appropriate major circuit court in Charleston, or another of the eight circuit courts in the boundaries of the Diocese. At the least, Runyan would have known much about Goodstein since one of the four lawyers in his firm in Beaufort, Andrew Platte, had been a clerk to Goodstein. [ ]. It was no accident that Runyan chose Goodstein's court as the one to enter his lawsuit against the Church on January 4, 2013. As time would tell, he was not to be disappointed.

Anyone considering Goodstein for the state supreme court would do well to review her conduct of the Church trial in July of 2014 and her decision of February 2015, or at least go over the state supreme court's remarks about them. Not one of the five justices had a good word for her conduct of the trial or her decision. In fact, quite the opposite. They went to lengths to criticize the one-sidedness of the trial and lack of substantial rationale in her order. If one reviews the trial transcript, this is readily apparent. For instance, when the main witnesses for the Church side took the stand, each could hardly get out a sentence without being interrupted, often by the judge. As an example there was Martin McWilliams an esteemed law professor at USC. On the stand and under the Church lawyer's questioning, diocesan lawyer Henrietta Golding interrupted him 62 times and made 19 objections, all of which Goodstein sustained. Runyan broke in 24 times making 6 formal objections. Goodstein sustained 5 of them. Judge Goodstein herself interrupted McWilliams 141 times. This turned out to be mild compared to what happened to the greatest historian in the state, Walter Edgar, when he took the stand. Goodstein's written decision was apparently very close to what Runyan wanted. It sounded to me as if he had written it himself. If so, it was too clever by half. It was so over the top, the supreme court justices apparently discarded it right away. It is almost certain that they dismissed it and are in the process of writing a new decision(s). My guess is that this is the holdup. I think if they were going to remand to Goodstein, they would have done so by now.

I am not saying Goodstein should not be on the South Carolina Supreme Court. I am saying that those legislators voting should consider the known records of all three candidates involved and weight all the evidence for each of them. Goodstein has a public record as a circuit court judge. At age 65, with not many years before mandatory retirement, she deserves full consideration. As for probably her highest-profile case in recent years, my guess is that even Judge Goodstein would agree that the Episcopal Church-diocesan trial was not her finest hour. In fairness to her, I think the scope, depth, and complexity of the issues raised in this particular case in South Carolina were probably beyond any single judge, at least on the lowly state circuit court level. (The four earlier cases of diocesan secession were simpler.) That is why I think the Episcopal Church-diocese issues will eventually have to be resolved by the collective wisdom of the highest court in the land.

To change gears, I have been spending a lot of time in my garden lately. I need it. I am sharing a couple of pictures to remind myself and others that the Wonderland we are really in is God's magnificent creation. It is all around us and in ways most gloriously at this time of the year. The star of my garden right now is the simple maple tree. Nothing can compete with its magnificence, especially in early morning and late afternoon when the sun illuminates its wonderful brilliance. These pictures are from this morning. (BTW I am praying for rain. We are in an exception drought. No measurable rain in 109 days and none in sight.)