Monday, October 29, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court of Virginia grants The Falls Church Anglican's Petition for Appeal on all issues

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted The Falls Church Anglican's appeal on all issues and refused the The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's assignment of cross error.   

Read more at Curmudgeon on this loss for TEC and the DoV:
By its order, the writ panel expressly refused to consider the Diocese's and ECUSA's cross-assignments of this claimed error, so Judge Bellows' ruling on that specific point will stand. And as I explained in this earlier post, that means that the Dennis Canon has no effect in Virginia. 
Curmudgeon writes on what the Virginia Supreme Court will review in granting The Falls Church Anglican's appeal:
1. The trial court erred in enforcing canon law, rather than “principles of real property and contract law” used in all cases ... to award plaintiffs a proprietary interest in TFC’s property and to extinguish TFC’s interest in such property, even though TFC’s own trustees held title and TFC paid for, improved, and maintained the property.  
2. The trial court’s award of TFC’s property to plaintiffs violates the Religion Clauses of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions by enabling denominations to secure others’ property by means available to no other Virginia entity.
3. The trial court erred in finding that plaintiffs had proprietary interests in TFC’s real property acquired before 1904, when the legislature first referenced denominational approval of church property transfers. [Note: in the body of the Petition, this claim of error is restated in this way: "The trial court divested TFC of property by retroactively applying canons and statutes passed after the conveyances at issue, contrary to state law and the Contracts Clause."] 
4. The trial court erred in awarding plaintiffs TFC’s unconsecrated real property, which is exempt from plaintiffs’ canons. 
5. The trial court erred in awarding TFC’s personal property to plaintiffs—even though plaintiffs never had any control over TFC’s funds or their use, and TFC’s donors, for religious reasons, gave on the express condition that their gifts not be forwarded to plaintiffs—in violation of Va. Code §57-1 and the Religion Clauses of the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.
6. The trial court erred in awarding plaintiffs more relief than sought, including funds given after TFC disaffiliated and funds spent on maintenance, which plaintiffs stipulated TFC should keep.
In their response to the Petition, the Diocese of Virginia claimed that The Falls Church Anglican had "waived" Assignments of Error #3 and #4 above, for improperly presenting and/or preserving them in the record for appeal. The Supreme Court obviously disagreed with that contention, because there is no language in its order restricting the points of error which The Falls Church Anglican may raise on appeal.
Read Curmudgeon's full report here. Link to the Supreme Court's award of appeal is here.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted The Falls Church Anglican's appeal.

The Falls Church Anglican reports:

The Virginia Supreme Court has posted on its website that it has granted The Falls Church Anglican's Petition for Appeal and will hear our case. 

The Court's online "Case Information System" lists the status of our Petition for Review as "Granted", with a "Disposition Date" of this past Friday. 

Our Petition asked the Court to review Fairfax Circuit Judge Randy I. Bellows' January 2012 letter opinion and March 2012 Final Order ruling against TFCA in the lawsuits brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and directing us to transfer all of our real property and million of dollars of money and other personal property to the Episcopal Diocese. 

Our Petition for Appeal asked the Virginia Supreme Court to review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying "neutral principles" of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the "non-consecrated" property, such as the Southgate Property located south of East Fairfax Street. 

One issue that is potentially significant for all charitable donors in Virginia was the lower court's decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese. The Virginia Attorney General submitted a brief supporting our position on this important issue. 

Let's all be thanking and praising the Lord for this answer to our prayers. We look forward to presenting our case to the Virginia Supreme Court, but this is just one step in what has obviously been a long process, so please continue to pray for the next steps.

UPDATE: George Conger has an article up now on AnglicanInk:

The historic Falls Church in Falls Church, VA
A three-member writ panel of the Virginia Supreme Court has voted to review the case of the Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church.

On 26 October 2012 the court’s website stated it had “granted” The Falls Church’s petition for appeal of the March 2012 order issued by Virginia Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows granting trusteeship of the property and control of the congregation’s assets to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia. 
On 16 Oct, attorneys for the Northern Virginia congregation were permitted 10 minutes of oral argument before the writ panel, to state why they believed the court should review their case. Under Virginia law, civil cases have no automatic right of appeal. The state’s Supreme Court may accept civil cases for review at its discretion. 
The office of the Diocese of Virginia was closed on 29 Oct due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy and unavailable for comment. However, The Falls Church released a statement saying it welcomed the court’s decision. 
The church stated that their petition asked the court to “review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying ‘neutral principles’ of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the "non-consecrated" property.” 
The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of one of the issues raised by the congregation. The Falls Church asked that the Supreme Court review the “lower court's decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese.” 
“Let's all be thanking and praising the Lord for this answer to our prayers. We look forward to presenting our case to the Virginia Supreme Court, but this is just one step in what has obviously been a long process, so please continue to pray for the next steps,” the church statement said.
Read it all here.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where does it say that the cross-error of appeal was not granted?

BabyBlue Anglican said...

As soon as there is an online link we'll link it!

BabyBlue Anglican said...

The link is here.

Northwest Bob said...

Dear BB,
Does this have any implications for Truro?
YIC,
NW Bob

Andy said...

Prayers for a God-honoring outcome.

Anonymous said...

Northwest Bob,

If Truro has reached a complete settlement, including foregoing their right to appeal, with DioVA/TEC, then it has no implication.