Friday, August 23, 2013

More good news: South Carolina trademark lawsuit dismissed

Madam Oven Mitt and her fauxiliary bishop of the non-existent "Episcopal Church in South Carolina" just got dealt another body blow in federal court.
A federal court has dismissed the trademark lawsuit brought by the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg against the Rt Rev. Mark Lawrence, ruling the dispute over who may call himself bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a matter to be decided by the state court.

Bishop Lawrence
On 23 August 2013 Senior U.S. District Court Judge Weston C. Houck held “[t]he sum of all disputes and conflicts arising in the wake of the Diocese’s estrangement from [the national Episcopal Church] are more appropriately before, and will more comprehensively be resolved, in South Carolina state court.”

In a statement released after the decision as handed down, Bishop vonRosenberg said he was “disappointed at the recent legal developments,” but added “we recognized that our journey involves many, many more steps than only this one.”

"We are involved for the long haul,” he said, noting the mission of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina “most definitely will not be defined by court decisions and legal processes but, rather, by the call and direction of our Lord”.

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s team said they were pleased by the ruling and the consolidation of the dispute between the national church and the diocese into a single forum.

“We are extremely gratified that Judge Houck agrees the entire issue should be decided by a South Carolina state court using South Carolina law under which the Diocese and its parishes are incorporated,” said the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, canon to the ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

“We are only sorry that [the national Episcopal Church’s] legal action has delayed resolution of this matter and served as a distraction from our real mission of ministering to the needs of the faithful.”

On Jan 4 2013 Bishop Lawrence and the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina joined in the following weeks by 35 congregations filed a complaint in the South Carolina Circuit Court for Dorchester County against the national Episcopal Church seeking a declaratory judgment stating they were the sole owner of their names, registered trademarks and properties.

Following an application by Bishop Lawrence’s attorneys, Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein [issued] a temporary restraining order changed on 29 Jan 2013 to a temporary injunction against the national church from using the diocese’s name or seal, which remains in force.

However, on 5 March Bishop vonRosenberg initiated proceedings in his own name against Bishop Lawrence in the U.S.District Court of South Carolina, claiming Bishop Lawrence had violated the Lanham Act - the Federal trademark legislation – by holding himself out as bishop of South Carolina when Bishop vonRosenberg said he was the true bishop. The following month attorneys for Bishop vonRosenberg filed a motion with the federal court asking it to take jurisdiction over all of the proceedings – removing it from state court control.

But on 10 June Judge Houck denied Bishop vonRosenberg’s request the federal court take jurisdiction over the dispute. Today’s ruling dismisses the personal lawsuit brought by Bishop vonRosenberg against Bishop Lawrence. The property case continues in state court.
Alan Haley offers his expert analysis here.