Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Drawing Straws and Flipping Coins?

Spent eight hours at the Court House today listening to arguments over the constitutionality of the Commonwealth of Virginia Division Statute 57-9. The judge permitted everyone to talk as long as they wanted. It was clear he came with his own series of questions, having read the briefs in detail and he questioned each of the council who testified closely, often quite closely, including the Solicitor General of the Commonwealth of Virginia who was there to defend the statute.

There were three lawyers representing the Diocese of Virginia, the Episcopal Church, and the amici participants. The CANA churches were represented by one lawyer, a constitutional lawyer who remarkably stayed on course throughout the proceedings.

The courtroom was packed as the arguments began. Bishop David Jones of the Diocese of Virginia was there and Bishop David Bena of CANA/Anglican District of Virginia was there. It was clear by the time that the day was over that the same logic used at General Convention and the same audacious reinvention of the meaning of words continues to be the strategy employed by The Episcopal Church, even in a court of law. They also engaged in what I might call the Jackson Pollock Approach to Legal Arguments. Just keep flinging that paint until everything - and everyone - is covered.

At one point toward the end, the amici counsel sniffed that our votes were just random "drawing straws and flipping coins." Oh. The offhand dismissal of something as democratically enshrined as voting one's conscience - whether you agree with it or not - as "drawing straws and flipping coins" shows a rather breathtaking contempt for the laity's ability to choose and a blatant disregard for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

It follows the same kind of thinking as we heard recently from the Presiding Bishop at her media conference at 815. Perhaps the only votes that matter are the votes that go your way?

The judge will rule soon on the constitutionality of the statute. Stay tuned.

18 comments:

Annie said...

Soon? Did he say, soon?

BabyBlue said...

Yes, he did. I noted that too.

bb

A. S. Haley said...

bb, I wonder if the Judge gave any indication of how he would read the pivotal case of Jones v. Wolf? I have given my critique of the parties' positions on that case here, and I am curious as to whether Judge Bellows saw the problems in the way the Diocese/TEC is reading that case.

I realize you are not an attorney, and I'm not asking you for any legal nuances---just whether it struck you that they were making any headway with him on their reading of that case.

Annie said...

Re: Soon
Wow. I had the impression that we could be waiting as long as we did for the April 3 ruling. Cool.

Re: Straws & Stones
Do NOT get me started! As you most certainly recall, my dear Baby Blue, the Protocol laid out a number of parameters that were required by DioVA as far as discernment processes, voter eligibility and majorities, etc. The Division Statute itself is also very specific about the process of voting to seperate, including the requirement to file the results with the Clerk of Court.

When I think of what we went through to ensure that every aspect of our vote meet both sets of requirements and could be proven to be valid, that ballots be cast only by eligible voters, and that we could confidently attest that we were holding up our end of the agreement, LET ALONE THE PRAYER, REPENTANCE, FASTING AND HEARTBREAK, only to have the Protocol be swept under the rug and be sued for following Virginia law...to hear what we went through be called the equivalent of little children choosing sides on the playground by eenie, meenie, miney, moe!!??

Okay. With renewed vigor and resolve, I will now return to my task of gathering untold reams of documents as requested by DioVA/TEC for the October trial date. Much vigor. Huge resolve.

Thanks for being eyes and ears for those of us who could not be at the hearing. I knew I could count on you.

Love, AnnieCOA

Annie said...

edit: Coins, not stones.

Rolin said...

Thank you, Curmudgeon (alias A. S. Haley) for that link to your extraordinarily lucid analysis of the "neutral principles" argument. Perhaps a careful conformity to Jones v. Wolf by Judge Bellows will forestall an appeal to the Supremes, and/or make their reply to the appeal a peremptory nyet.

Rolin said...

re: Annie and her "stones":
Perhaps you were thinking of glass houses?
Br_er Rabbit

Annie said...

Brother Rabbit, I certainly confess I felt like throwing some stones!

BabyBlue said...

TEC/DoV spent a considerable time trying to tear down Jones. I'll write more later.

bb

commoncausepriest said...

Did you answer the question of when?

BabyBlue said...

commoncausepriest - if you are asking when the judge is going to issue his decision, he said "soon" but he didn't say when.

It was interesting, it appeared to me that the lawyers for TEC and DoV approached the law much as they do theology - the words don't really mean what they appear to mean. In fact, they even described the judge's decision as using "Dictionary-defined words" they said it a few times and not with respect either. "You poor dear," it was as if they were saying, "you have to resort to the dictionary to get your definitions. But that's so rigid, so unbending, so unflexible, so uninclusive." Of course, that book was written by a dead guy so why trust it anyway? Those are just his definition, dear Dead Webster.

They spent hours trying to tear apart Jones by breaking it up into parts and then separating the parts so that they are not in context with each other. Sound familiar? The judge seemed to see right through it when he pointed out that the words are modified by what came before it and proceeded to read the whole thing, not the parts that the Diocesan counsel was trying to separate from the rest. Does that sound like how the revisionists read Scripture? Scripture informs Scripture and the law informs law. You don't break out the bits you don't like to reformat your argument. But they actually tried to do that in court. I have to say I was astonished.

They kept wanting to move the goal posts and stop talking about 57-9 (what's voting anyway - it's merely drawing straws and flipping coins, a statement by the amici counsel that nearly lifted the people in the galleries right off their benches) and move on to their own legal arguments for their own lawsuits. 57-9 seems to be an annoying gnat that keeps bothering them. Who cares what these congregations think anyway, they seemed to be saying. Who cares about their votes - nevermind that it was the Protocol that defined how we voted. Their rewriting of theology, then history, and now the law is simply staggering.

The judge was incredibly patient - darn near pastoral. He came in with a plan and he stuck to it. He asked lots of questions - excellent questions that showed he had a full grasp of the issues and terms, even if he does use a dictionary.

He let everyone talk as long as they wanted - I think he would have ordered out pizza if people wanted to keep talking.

The Solicitor General of the Commonwealth of Virginia sat beside our counsel. Both our counsel and the Solicitor General on behalf of the Attorney General were articulate, respectful, commanding and to the point. The majority of the time however - hours and hours in fact - was taken by the Diocese, TEC and the amici lawyer - who seemed not to have a clue about the polity of the denominations he was supposed to be representing. He even made errors in the denomination he was supposed to know more about - the Methodists - but knew nothing really about the other denominations. I'm not really sure why he was there except as window dressing for the fact that the Commonwealth was sitting at the other table.

bb

Sibyl said...

BB, The TEC lawyers antics sound a whole lot like the infamous 'is' story from the Clinton/Lewinsky investigation.

hanks said...

BB, your description of the Diocese/TEC argument sounds very much like the pathetic arguments Bishop Sauls tried to make in his Memorandum of May 27 to the HOB re the alleged deposing of Bishops Cox and Schofield. (See the Anglican Curmudgeon's devastating commentary on this item.)

His interpretation of Canon IV.9 was based on leaving words out, ignoring whole pieces of language and then claiming that past violations constitute precedent. The arguments they are making before Judge Bellows sound very similar -- we pick and choose the words we like (as we do with Scripture).

If TEC is going to spend their millions on lawsuits, they ought to hire some competent lawyers! On the other hand, maybe they should stick with Beers and his friends -- and maybe add Sauls to the team.

Rolin said...

It does not sound like TEC and DoV are batting well here; another swing and a miss in front of the referee who called their last pitch "blinking at reality." One more strike and they're out.

Rolin said...

...er, that would be,
The umpire said that their last swing "blinks at reality."
Br_er Rabbit

kc said...

Thanks so very much, bb, for keeping us informed --
blessings,
kc

Anonymous said...

Argh... I am on the edge of my seat. Anything? Anyone? Anyone?

Praying,
archangelos

Annie said...

Nope. Nothing.

Me too, regards both seat position and prayers.