CHARLESTON, SC, April 7, 2014 – The South Carolina Supreme Court has intervened in a lawsuit and granted the Diocese of South Carolina’s Motion to Transfer jurisdiction from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. This may effectively prevent The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), from using serial appeals to further delay a trial to prevent the two groups from seizing Diocese of South Carolina property.
The Supreme Court decision comes days after TEC and TECSC filed new appeals apparently aimed at delaying the discovery process in advance of the trial that is scheduled to start on July 7. While the Supreme Court ruling does not prevent the denomination from filing appeals, it eliminates the time-consuming step of first going to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
“We are grateful that the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized that TEC and TECSC are misusing the judicial system to delay resolution of this case,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “Their strategy of using legal motions to delay court decisions caused eight months to be wasted when they asked the federal court to override the state court injunction. As in that matter, the courts sided with the Diocese of South Carolina.”
Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who will preside over the trial, today issued an announcement to counsel in the case that Court Administration has set the trial date for July 7-18, 2014 and she will not allow attorneys to have “protection” from having to be in attendance at the trial during those dates.
TEC has a long history of dragging out legal battles, apparently in hopes of draining the resources of parishes and dioceses it seeks to punish for leaving the denomination. It has spent more than $30 million on litigation in the past few years. TEC routinely appeals court decisions in hopes of wearing down its opposition – and to intimidate parishes and dioceses that wish to leave the denomination.
Now that the Supreme Court has taken jurisdiction of all appeals , it is likely that future attempts to use appeals to delay resolution will be ineffective.
The Diocese of South Carolina disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to defrock Bishop Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members voted to remain in union with the Diocese and not with TEC.
The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.