Monday, February 17, 2020


Yet again, Judge Edgar Dickson has scheduled a hearing in the church case. This one is to be at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 27, 2020, in the Orangeburg County courthouse, in Orangeburg SC. This will be the fourth hearing he has held in this matter. I wish I could tell you, dear reader, what is going on with Judge Dickson, but honestly I have not a clue. I hate to say it, but very little of what he has done makes any sense to me. He has spent more than two years shuffling papers and marking time. Meanwhile the schismatics remain in control of the properties and other assets of the historic diocese that the high state court and the federal court both said belong to the Episcopal Church and its diocese. 

Find the Episcopal diocese's announcement of the hearing here . Find scepiscopalians' remarks about it here . In his email to the lawyers of last Friday, Judge Dickson said he wanted a hearing on the Episcopal diocese's three outstanding motions which essentially ask the judge to implement the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, particularly with a special master and an accounting. He has not addressed these before.

A brief review of the matter before Judge Dickson is in order. On August 2, 2017, the SCSC issued its long-awaited decision on the suit between the secessionist diocese (now called the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina) and the church diocese (the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina). The SCSC issued three clear orders on the last page of the decision: 1-the eight local church entities that had not acceded to the Dennis Canon were free of trust control, 2-the twenty-eight local churches that had acceded to the Dennis Canon were now property of the Episcopal Church, and 3-Camp St. Christopher was property of the Episcopal Church diocese.

The Anglican diocese asked the SCSC for a rehearing in 2017. The SCSC refused. It also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case in 2018. SCOTUS refused. That meant the case was closed. It could not be appealed or altered.

The SCSC issued a Remittitur to the first circuit court, the court of origin, on November 19, 2017. A remittitur is an order to implement a higher court decision. The chief judge of the first circuit, Diane Goodstein assigned the case to the only other judge of that circuit, Edgar Dickson. He officially received the case on January 10, 2018 (that's 25 months ago if you are counting).

Judge Dickson's assigned task was to implement the SCSC decision. He has not done that. He has collected a mountain of papers from the lawyers on both sides. This amounted to thousands of pages of motions, petitions, memos, responses, responses to the responses and on and  on. He has also held three public courtroom hearings. The net result of all of this is one order. In the second hearing (23 July 2019), Dickson directed the implementation of the first of the three orders in the SCSC decision, that seven parishes be recognized as independent of Episcopal Church control. This is Judge Dickson's one and only accomplishment in all of this time, and it was favorable to the secessionists.

The first hearing should have been a warning of things to come. On November 19, 2018, ten months after he received the case, Judge Dickson held his first courtroom hearing. In it, he complained the SCSC decision was unclear and confusing. He implied he did not know what the SCSC meant for him to do, in spite of the fact that the three orders in the decision were explicit, and asked the lawyers to turn in lists of issues they wanted him to address. They did, in reams. In the hearing, the judge said he would consider only one issue, ADSC's motion for clarification of jurisdiction (to discard the SCSC decision on property). All of this went nowhere. All this time later, he has yet to rule on clarification of jurisdiction.

After fourteen months of nothing happening, the Episcopal diocese's lawyers went to the state supreme court asking for a writ of mandamus in which the SCSC would direct Dickson to implement the SCSC decision. The SCSC denied this. So, here we are nearly a year after that and practically nothing has changed.

Judge Dickson did not rule on clarification of jurisdiction. Instead, he called a hearing for July 23, 2019, supposedly on the betterments suit (ADSC's suit to make TEC pay for the property). In the hearing, the judge tossed betterments aside and made two orders disconnected. One was to recognize the independence of the seven local parishes. The other was to order mediation, in spite of the fact that mediation had already been tried and had gone absolutely nowhere (the subsequent "mediation" lasted a few hours.).

Meanwhile, the Church lawyers grew increasingly anxious and frustrated. In October of 2019, they sent a letter to Dickson asking for him to implement the SCSC decision. No response. Then they sent a second letter. This time he responded by calling a new hearing (the third) on 26 November 2019. This time, Judge Dickson reverted to ADSC's motion for clarification of jurisdiction. He said he would consult with the SCSC for direction on what he was supposed to do. He also called for the two sets of lawyers to submit proposed orders on ADSC's motion for clarification. ADSC turned in its proposed order in December and the EDSC did soon thereafter. There has been no response of Dickson to any of this.

So now, Dickson proposes to move to another issue and hear about EDSC's motions on implementation. Given his record, there can be no guarantee he will actually talk about these. He may decide at the last minute to discuss something else. He may may make some other decision or order. In short, considering the record of this whole matter, there is no way to predict what Judge Dickson will do in his next hearing.

So, what does all of this add up to? We have one action, to give the seven parishes their independence. That is it for the 25 months and counting.

Back to my first point. None of this makes any sense to me. I know there has to be a reason for all of this but it is hidden whatever it is. scepiscopalians suggests Judge Dickson is helping his friends on the breakaway side by dragging this our forever. I would not argue against that. I simply do not know why two years of virtual inaction and I doubt anyone outside Judge Dickson's close circle of friends would know.

What we do know is that Judge Dickson was tasked with implementing the SCSC decision that explicitly returned 29 parishes and the Camp to the Episcopal Church. More than two years later, the Episcopal Church still does not have the 29 and the Camp. 

Next week could be the time Judge Dickson finally moves on implementing the decision. I for one am not holding my breath. We have been down this winding road of dead ends here and there too many times. The lesson we have have learned is to expect nothing. Maybe Judge Dickson will surprise us and maybe he will not.