Friday, June 27, 2014

More shenanigans by South Carolina rump group as trial date approaches

From Anglican Curmudgeon:
Judge Goodstein
In its latest bid to delay the start of the trial scheduled for July 7, the rump group that calls itself "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina" (ECSC) has filed a Notice of Appeal from an interlocutory order of the trial court that denied its "motion to reconsider" for a fourth time a ruling that refused to allow it to add additional individual parties to the case. As such, the appeal is purely a stalling tactic, and is thus frivolous in the extreme.

As Judge Goodstein's June 6 order (attached to the Notice of Appeal) explains, ECSC on three prior occasions in the case sought the court's leave to add additional parties and assert additional claims against them. She first denied a motion to add 23 individuals to the case last October 1. In November, ECSC asked her to reconsider that ruling, and also filed a new motion to add just four (of the 23 it had sought to add earlier) individuals to the case: Bishop Mark Lawrence; his canon to the ordinary, the Rev. Jim Lewis; and two additional clergy who formerly served on the Diocese's Standing Committee.

Judge Goodstein denied the motion to reconsider at a hearing on December 30, 2013, and ECSC did not appeal that order. (Instead, it appealed another order entered after that same hearing that denied ECSC's motion to reconsider a different ruling -- a refusal of ECSC's request that Bishop Lawrence produce all of his communications with his attorneys. In May of this year, that appeal was finally resolved in Bishop Lawrence's favor by the South Carolina Supreme Court.)

At the same time, Judge Goodstein indicated she would deny ECSC's second motion to add additional parties, but her written order to that effect was not filed until May 20, 2013 (because of the delays while her earlier order was on appeal). Thus when ECSC filed its motion to reconsider that ruling, it was the fourth time that they had asked Judge Goodstein for essentially the same thing: to add individual counterclaim defendants so as to be able to multiply the claims to be tried in the case (and incidentally, of course, to greatly increase the costs of defense).

Judge Goodstein filed her order denying that motion to reconsider on June 6. And on June 23, ECSC filed its Notice of Appeal from that order.

In South Carolina, even an irregular appeal from an interlocutory (i.e., not final) order of the trial court -- normally such orders are not subject to appeal -- apparently divests the trial court of jurisdiction pending the resolution of the appeal. Thus if this latest appeal is dealt with as was the earlier one, the first thing that will happen is that an individual appellate judge will reject the appeal as improperly filed from an order that did not finally dispose of all the issues in the case. Then ECSC will ask the full appeals panel to consider the appeal, and if they, too, deny the appeal, ECSC will file a petition for rehearing.

[UPDATE 06/27/2014: It appears from this report that Judge Goodstein has told the attorneys that she will not delay the start of the trial on account of the pending appeal, which is very good news for Bishop Lawrence and his parishes. She has ruled that the appeal cannot affect any issues in the main case, and so it will not be allowed to interfere with that proceeding. If ECSC wants to stop the trial from starting, it will have to ask the Court of Appeals for a stay -- and for the reasons I have given in this post, such a request will most likely be denied.]
More here.