Saturday, February 22, 2020


The Episcopal Church and its Diocese of South Carolina have gone to the South Carolina Supreme Court for help with Judge Edgar Dickson. On yesterday, 21 February 2020, they filed "Petition for a Writ of Prohibition" with the state high court. In short, it asks the court to step in and prohibit Judge Dickson from re-litigating the property issue that was settled in the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017.

Find the Episcopal diocese's news release about this here . This contains the link to the Petition for a Writ of Prohibition.

To refresh everyone's memory, here is the last page of the SCSC decision. The three majority orders are clearly and plainly written, even enumerated as (1), (2), (3). 

The SCSC decision was assigned to Judge Dickson upon Remittitur (Nov. 19, 2017) from the high court. A remittitur is an order to implement a higher court decision. It is the assigned task of the circuit court to put into effect the SCSC decision.

However, the Anglican diocese refused to accept the SCSC decision. On March 23, 2018, they filed "Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction and for Other Relief" with Judge Dickson. This claimed that the SCSC had not settled the property issue. The Anglican lawyers claimed the SCSC opinion was unclear, confusing, conflicted and ultimately unenforceable. Their motion for clarification asserted that since the SCSC had not settled the property issue, Judge Dickson should do that himself since he had the jurisdiction to do so. Meanwhile the lawyers claimed the 29 had not acceded to the Dennis Canon, the implication being that Dickson would have to rule against the Episcopal Church's claim of ownership under the terms of the Dennis Canon. Dickson began moving in that direction. He held a hearing, on November 19, 2018, concerning ADSC's  Motion for Clarification and then asked the two sides to present evidence about the parishes' accession to the Dennis Canon. He began collecting a mountain of papers from the two sides as he held three hearings. All the while, in the 25 months, Dickson did nothing to implement the terms of the SCSC decision favorable to the Episcopal Church.

So, the fundamental issue in contention is the ownership of the properties: the 29 parishes and the Camp. The Episcopal lawyers claim this was settled by the SCSC decision in favor of the Episcopal Church. The Anglican lawyers claim the issue was not settled by the SCSC decision because it was not clear and that Judge Dickson has jurisdiction to settle the property issue himself. 

The assertion that the three orders in the SCSC decision are unclear is not credible. A simple reading of page 77 shows the three majority decision to be perfectly clear. The supreme court justices issued three explicit orders by majority vote. That is the way supreme court decisions work. A mystery is why Judge Dickson has refused to implement the SCSC decision. Another is why he is entertaining a motion that clearly contradicts the SCSC decision that he has been charged to implement.

What is a "writ of prohibition"? Find the Wikipedia article about it here . According to the article, "A 'writ of prohibition," in the United States, is an official legal document drafted and issued by a supreme court, superior court, or an appeals court to a judge presiding over a suit in an inferior court. The writ of prohibition mandates the inferior court to cease any action over the case because it may not fall within that inferior court's jurisdiction..."

Lack of jurisdiction is the exact argument the Episcopal lawyers made in their Petition of yesterday. On page 1, they wrote, "Petitioners respectfully request this Court to issue a Writ of Prohibition to prohibit Respondent Judge Edgar W. Dickson ("Judge Dickson") from exceeding the Circuit Court's jurisdiction by ruling on a Motion for Clarification...a case that has been decided by this Court [SCSC] and is now before the Circuit Court on remittitur." On page 18, the Church lawyers concluded, "A writ of prohibition is required to ensure that the authority of this Court's [SCSC] ruling is preserved, that this litigation be brought to an end without further, unnecessary delay, and that the property rights this Court awarded to Petitioners be respected."

The Church's filing of yesterday leaves two questions to be resolved. 1-Will the Anglican lawyers file a response with the SCSC? and 2-Will Judge Dickson proceed with the hearing he has scheduled for Thursday, February 27, or will he cancel or postpone it? 

I will relay news as I receive it.

I, for one, think it is high time for the Church to take more aggressive action to get the SCSC decision implemented. Twenty-five months of waiting is a long time. What the lawyers did yesterday was hardball, but a move entirely justified, in my opinion. It is unimaginable that the South Carolina Supreme Court would not enforce a final decision that is now the law of the land. Of course, the Anglicans want to change the rules of the game, but they do not have that right. They cannot replay the game under their own rules. The game is over. They lost.