South Carolina Episcopalians

An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans

not affiliated with ACNA, the Episcopal Church or any of their dioceses

August 3, 2018

Church, Breakaway Attorneys Lay Out Concerns over Implementation of S.C. Supreme Court Decision

Judge had asked them to come up with a list of their expectations for his work ahead; Each list reflected positions taken in prior filings

As requested a week earlier, both sides in Bishop Lawrence's lawsuit against the Church submitted "lists" of issues they want Judge Edgar Dickson of Orangeburg to consider in implementing the August 2017 decision by the state Supreme Court. 

Dickson is the Chief Administrative Judge of the state's First Judicial Circuit (Dorchester, Orangeburg, & Calhoun counties) and has been tasked by the justices to oversee reintegration of Camp St. Christopher and 29 parishes into the Episcopal Church after they unsuccessfully tried to follow Lawrence out of the Church with their property and financial assets.

On July 26th, Dickson met with attorneys in the case and asked that they try to come up with a list of issues they agree they want him to address.  SC Episcopalians was there as well.

Attorneys on both sides were somewhat surprised by the request, since Dickson had the high court's ruling and the parties' five motions awaiting his ruling.  None of the lawyers were optimistic that they could agree on a singe list, and, as it turned out, they were right.  Each ended up submitting its own list on Thursday.

Since Dickson will have to work closely with each side over the next few months, we assume his asking for "lists" was just a way making sure each side felt he was listening to them.

"List" from the Church & The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

Attorneys for the Episcopal Church and its diocese in eastern South Carolina are clearly in the driver's seat in the implementation phase of the case.   They won in the state Supreme Court last August, and won again last fall when the justices denied two motions by the breakaway group that the case be reheard.   They were also successful in beating back the breakaway's subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The "list" they submitted to Judge Dickson, in essence, asked him to proceed with implementing the high court's ruling, which is now over a year old.  They had to be pleased with Dickson's comments at their conference at which he seemed to appreciate the need to get case wrapped up.

The Church's list to Dickson was a recitation of its filings around the five pending motions...

  • Yes to proceeding to implement the Supreme Court ruling of August 2017
  • Yes to the appointment of a "special master" to expedite the resolution of any issues that may arise in the return of the 29 parishes
  • Yes to a full audit and accounting of the assets of the parishes since 2008
  • No to moving forward with a trial of the Betterments lawsuit
  • No designating the case as "complex" litigation on the grounds that it is moot.

List from attorneys for Bishop Lawrence and the breakaway group

Given the weak hand they've been dealt, the breakaway attorneys did the best they could to slam the state Supreme Court decision and the individual opinions provided by the justices.   Their argument is that without further clarification of various issues raised at trial, not raised at trial, and not addressed by either the trial court or the Supreme Court, Judge Dickson cannot implement the decision without further actions by the courts.

It's a tough sell since the state's high court twice refused to rehear the case and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to stand.  As far as we can tell, the breakaway lawyers' "list" did not contain anything that had not already been raised in the other venues.

The breakaways are also pushing for a hearing on their Betterments lawsuit.   On other pages we've explored the chances of that actually happening.  It does appear that this is a nuisance action that the breakaways hope might give them some leverage in addressing financial penalties they may have to pay as a result of misspending over the past 10 years.