Thursday, November 18, 2010

Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin win appeal

The Fifth District Court of Appeal of Fresno, California, has granted Bishop John Schofield's petition for review, overturning The Episcopal Church's motion for summary adjudication. Read the ruling here and read Anglican Curmudgeon's first thoughts on the ruling here.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

BB - the links will cause confusion. They lead to the earlier (2009) trial court decision in favor of the Episcopal Diocese (I think). I haven't had time to find the link to the appellate ruling that is apparently the subject of your post, but you probably ought to sort that out before you get a lot of scatter shot commentary based on the wrong links. I'll read Curmudgeon to try to figure out what happened.

Scout

TL said...

Scout here is the link:

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F058298.PDF

Lapinbizarre said...

Yet another round of "if the glove don't fit, you must aquit" from David Mercer Schofield's attorney, BB.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, TL. Having now read the appellate ruling, I think your headline, BB, about the new Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin "winning" its appeal is a bit forced. I suppose it's a "win" in the sense that upholding the lower court would have been a "loss", but the content of what is largely a procedural decision (whether the first cause of action could be resolved by summary judgment) probably gives creates more problems for the secessionist factions than for the Episcopalians (I know you don't like the term "secession", BB, and I refrain from using it in deference to your tastes on the point, but, in this instance, this is the term used by the Court. Perhaps it is less of a problem in California than in Virginia). The appellate court takes as a given that Bishop Schofield was properly deposed as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese, that Bishop Lamb was properly installed, and that Bishop Schofield subsequently became bishop of a separate Anglican diocese. These points are deemed matters governed by "ecclesiastical law" and hence beyond the purview of the secular courts. Those facts are now locked in and, I suspect, will favor TEC in the matter below, a matter that now must proceed on a neutral principles (i.e., non-religious) analysis. I don't know enough about what the underlying property documents will show to be emphatic in predicting that the Episcopal diocese and TEC will fare as well in this as it has in other cases, but, I wouldn't think this bodes well for the departing groups. The appellate ruling leaves in place a very clear picture of people, right up to the Bishop, who decided to leave, but stayed in place long enough to start loading up accounts and real property to take with them. Not a pretty sight, that.

Scout

ettu said...

Scout- As one who has grown weary of these and other ongoing proceedings but who nonetheless follows them with great interest, I want to thank you for your patient and informed comments. I am - on a daily basis- grateful that this schismatic mess is starting to fade a bit and hope for calmer seas ahead. Your thoughts are helpful in that regard.

Lapinbizarre said...

Thanks for the analysis, Scout.

Alexi said...

Scout, Whether Bishop Lamb is bishop or not has NO relevance to the decisions before the court that are to be based on neutral principles of property law. The Curmudgeon has a second post on this which should clarify things a great deal. Basically this is very good news for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin not such good news for the "faux diocese" that remains in TEC.

Here is what the Curmudgeon said in one of his own comments to someone who posted on his own blog.
"the Court demonstrated the futility of wrangling over internal procedures, and got the parties back to the main track. In effect, it said: "Take those issues of legitimacy back to your churches and resolve them there. If you want us to tell you who now owns the properties, show us the deeds, and any other documents you claim establish a binding and valid trust on the property in question. We will analyze those documents in terms of traditional property and trust law, and tell you whether Bishop Schofield was under any constraints or not when he conveyed the properties to a diocesan holding corporation after his diocese had withdrawn from the Church."

I don't know what happened in CA but in SC, there was no valid trust created by TECUSA despite what TECUSA says.That was the most important part of the SC decision. Also, The diocese of San Joaquin does not accede to the Canons so there is NO Denis canon in this diocese.

From what I have read at the Curmudgeon about various cases over disputed church property ownership,when neutral principles are applied, it favors those whose names are on the deed usually those of the local congregation.

The Lakeland Two said...

Thanks, Alexi.

Scout, come on. Again with the "but stayed in place long enough to start loading up accounts and real property to take with them."? Stealing the silver? We can go round and round over majority, can't we.

Here's a diocese that wanted to continue worshipping the way it had, not the way y'all want to go - a large majority. But keep beating that dead horse.

Must get that building or piece of silver over letting them go and worship the way THEY want, the way they have been. Sheesh.

Lapinbizarre said...

The South Carolina ruling was case-specific to All Saints, Pawleys Island, Alexei - and FWIW, its conclusion was specifically rejected by the Supreme Court of the neighboring State of Georgia in its later ruling on the Christ Church, Savannah property dispute. Pity the Pawleys Island ruling has not been subjected to the scrutiny of the Federal Courts, but such an appeal is decidedly not in the interest of those now controlling the diocese of SC.

Incidentally, Lakeland Two, yesterday's California ruling is all about whether or not Schofield & Co "stayed in place long enough to start loading up accounts and real property to take with them". Under these ground rules they will stand zero chance of hanging on to any trust or property given or bequeathed to the "Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin".

Haley, must I repeat, is Schofield's presumably well-paid attorney. All that he writes on this issue must be viewed as just one more smoke-screen and nothing that he writes, unconfirmed by neutral sources or by common sense, should be taken at face value. Spin - pure spin. Not, given the accuracy of his prognostications to date, a man I would much want defending me in a capital case.

Lapinbizarre said...

ps read here.

The Lakeland Two said...

Lap - As long as your focus is on the buildings instead of the people, that's all you see.

May God lift us all up and may His will reign here as well as it does in heaven.

Anonymous said...

LL2 - what's the reference to "majority"? I don't think I said anything about people being of age or numbers of people in an election. If your point is that a "majority" of some group did something and therefore it affects legal title, I would demur on that in that I know of nothing in the Canons of the Episcopal Church or in the civil law of California (I don't pretend to be an expert on that jurisdiction, but if there were something, we would have seen or heard of it by now) that says a group purporting to be a majority can take a vote to transfer title to themselves. That would be a fine mess I would think, in managing property rights.

I read Mr. Hailey fairly regularly and enjoy his site. He is intelligent, knowledgeable and articulate. I often agree with him. However, he has also been wrong many times about how the courts resolve these things as a matter of law. One does have to understand that he has a dog in the fight in more ways than one.

My earlier comment was based on the distant observation (I no longer have the privilege of living in California) that Mr. Hailey has long advocated a position on these disputes that is very much built on the legitimacy of the alternative, replacement structure of the Anglican diocese that Bishop Schofield and his team built while he was still an Episcopal bishop. My own view is that these machinations were designed primarily for the purpose of laying claim to property. The appeals court here seems to be saying that it won't touch (and won't allow the trial court to touch) internal ecclesiastical issues. My guess is that, given past emphasis on these issues by the secessionist factions, the Court's emphatic statement that the courts must honor internal Episcopal instruments on internal governance, will be an obstacle for the departing group on remand. Again, I don't know what the property documents look like out there, so I can't form an opinion on their effect. But I would think the picture of a bishop (or corporate executive) and his followers busily creating a structure to effect property transfers to a new group which he will head up after he leaves will look somewhat unseemly, not only as an ethical matter, but as a matter of law. We will see.

Scout

Alexi said...

Lap, Please read ALL of the SC Supreme Court decision. Yes part of the decision was indeed specific to All Saint's. However, the SC Supreme Court also ruled that there was NO TRUST created in SC under SC law. THAT is why the SC court ruled that there is NO valid Denis Canon in this state. That is a potential problem everywhere. Just because GC says it makes a trust does not really make it so. Unless there were trusts actually created In all states, there is NO valid trust created by the Denis Canon.

As to why Justices in other states have ruled the way they did, I can not explain. Just because one court in one state rules one way, another court in another state is not obligated to rule in the same way.

Lapinbizarre said...

I repeat, Alexei, "pity the Pawleys Island ruling has not been subjected to the scrutiny of the Federal Courts, but such an appeal is decidedly not in the interest of those now controlling the diocese of SC".

Decidedly not in the interest of those now controlling the diocese of SC.

Joe said...

"its conclusion was specifically rejected by the Supreme Court of the neighboring State of Georgia "

Thats not true. The case has not been decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Lapinbizarre said...

Quite right. Court of Appeals. The State Supreme Court has yet to respond to the request, submitted last August, that it review the Court of Appeals ruling, that affirms the validity of the Denis Canon.

Anonymous said...

LB - my educated guess is that the Georgia Supreme Court won't change the lower court's ruling. It's interesting that in the most recent SC diocesan resolutions, they seemed to be taking some pains to try to extricate themselves from the history of accession to Episcopal discipline that thoroughly undid the Christ Church separatists in Georgia. I hope that Bishop Lawrence and his followers stay in the Episcopal Church, but they seem to have followed the Georgia case closely and are trying to dismantle as best they can the elements of the Georgia disposition that ensured (thus far) that the property stays with the Diocese and the Church. Of course, their situation might differ from Georgia's in that in the latter case, the Diocese remained loyal to the national church and the only issue was the departure of members of one of the parishes.

Scout

Lapinbizarre said...

Re SC, I believe that undoing a contractual agreement would require the acquiescence of both parties, Scout.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps. I'm not sure whether those relationships would be considered "contractual" by the SC courts. Another issue is that the sudden attempted repudiation of 100 years + of acceptance of Church discipline at a time when it could be interpreted to be a transparent effort to create or buttress claims to property may create some issues down the line.

Scout

James said...

There seems to be a great deal of uninformed speculation about the recent California decision. The key passage from the judgment is this:

"Nevertheless, civil court jurisdiction is properly invoked to resolve issues concerning property transfers assertedly made by Schofield while he was the duly constituted Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. Resolution of these issues involves consideration of both the powers invested in the bishop under the church law at the time he took those actions, and the powers of the bishop under state corporate, trust, and property law at the time he took these actions."

It really doesn't matter who is called what by whom right now. It is irrelevant who the or what the "legitimate" TEC diocese is. The issue that the court must decide is were the property transactions undertaken by Bishop Schofield (as a TEC bishop) legally valid?

Mr. Haley obviously believes that Bishop Schofield's actions were legally valid. We will see if the courts agree.

Daniel Weir said...

Mr Haley is one of Bp Schofield's lawyers, hardly a impartial commentator.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that the constant commenters are always Scout Lapinbizzare and Wier. And always with the same "facts" as they wish them to be. Maybe not so much interesting as it is sad, now that I think about it.

Daniel Weir said...

I hardly comment here anymore - only once on this thread - and that a brief reminder about Mr. Haley's employment. If I am wrong about that, please correct me.

Anonymous said...

While, ideally, opinions are grounded in fact, I view places such as this as sites where we can exchange views. Nothing particularly "sad" about that, Anon 0113. If I state as a fact something you know to be inaccurate, I welcome correction.

Scout

Anonymous said...

The only rational reading here is that Schofield and his group got whipped. Badly. The major points were decided, all against Schofield.

All that is left is details of what is owned by the corporation sole.

Jeterius

Anonymous said...

Jeterius, they won the appeal.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the opinion? THe definition of Pyrrhic. It's no win. It's a devastating opinion.

Jeterious

The Lakeland Two said...

No, the definition of pyrrhic victory is what TEC is going for by the lawsuits.

Empty buildings. Whatever is gained by selling them is outweighed by the souls out the door and lost because of the New Agenda.

Think of where everyone would have been now if everyone was allowed to go their own way...Oh, wait, that's the point, isn't it?