Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 8: Judge Goodstein lowers the boom on lawless TECSC attorneys

Was this supposed to be TECSC's "expert witness?" Hey, anything's possible with this bunch!
It's hard to imagine what kind of "expert" testimony a legendary stand-up comedian could have provided, but the lawless tactics of the attorneys for The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) were no laughing matter for Judge Diane Goodstein.
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 17, 2014 –A normally unflappable South Carolina Circuit Court judge stopped the trial initiated by the Diocese of SC to prevent the seizure of local diocesan and parish property, to scold the defendants for their intentional disregard of three court orders dealing with disclosure of expert witnesses. The defendants, the Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) tried to present an expert witness, Robert Klein, into the trial without having followed court’s orders.

After reminding TEC attorneys that she had bent over backwards to provide them ample opportunity to identify expert witnesses, Judge Diane S. Goodstein said, “You have violated this court three times with regard to experts and now you think you’re going to bring in his (Klein) testimony through the back door? This is not a game! Court’s orders are to be followed! You are an officer of the court. I trust we will not have any more discussion about this witness.”

Goodstein then asked the TEC counselor when Klein was hired as an expert witness. The defense attorney admitted they had communicated with Klein prior to the last court order in June. Judge Goodstein, waving a sheet of paper without Klein’s name on it, said it was “unbelievable,” “remarkable” that his name was not on it and therefore ruled Klein’s testimony excluded. Further, Goodstein said she believed the many efforts to postpone and delay the proceedings of the trial had been a tactical decision by the defendants.

Attorneys for the defense argued at length about the propriety of excluding their witness and threatened to appeal her ruling. Goodstein finally ended the discussion by saying, “I want the courts to assume that I have done what I have done because the defendants failed to comply with not one, not two but three of this court’s orders.”

After the judge’s scolding, TEC presented another expert witness, Leslie Lott, a trademark attorney from Coral Gables, Fla., who had a portion of her testimony excluded because she had based her opinions on the work of Klein, the earlier excluded witness.

Lott was ill prepared to testify because the defendants had only provided her with their side of the case. She had been given no information, factual or legal, about the plaintiff, Diocese of South Carolina. It was apparent through cross examination that Lott’s defense attorney had only presented their side so that she could not render an informed opinion and she simply lacked the necessary information to testify credibly.

Her testimony was interrupted when an irritated Judge Goodstein adjourned for lunch after she realized during cross-examination that Lott had not brought her documents to court.

The other witnesses were parish witnesses who had left and formed other churches, and are now part of TECSC. Each witness testified that proper notice had been given to the congregation to vote as to whether their church remained with the Diocese of South Carolina or go with TEC and its newly formed TECSC.