ORANGEBURG, S.C. (NOV. 27, 2019) – In a nearly two and a half hour hearing Tuesday morning at the Orangeburg County Courthouse, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson heard arguments on both sides for a variety of motions currently before his court relating to the South Carolina Supreme Court majority decision in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (also known as The Diocese of South Carolina) on August 2, 2017.
Attorneys for the disassociated diocese focused primarily on the Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction and Other Relief they filed on March 22, 2018, with a supplement filed in September 2018. They sought clarification on the Supreme Court’s majority opinion that the 29 parishes named in the lawsuit did “expressly accede to the Dennis Canon,” and told the judge that if he ruled on that motion, all of their other motions before the court would be “moot,” including the Betterments case.
Mary Kostel, Chancellor to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, pointed out the evidence provided in the original state trial which supported the assertion that the 29 churches did in fact accede to the Dennis Canon, and that the South Carolina Supreme Court used in rendering their majority opinion that agreed to the same.
As Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr. noted, on the issue of parish property, the majority of the Supreme Court – Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Pleicones, and Justice Hearn – held that the parishes that acceded in writing to the Dennis Canon (within the Church’s Constitution and Canons) hold their property in trust for the Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. And, furthermore, that Chief Justice Beatty concluded that the parishes’ written accessions were “sufficient to create an irrevocable trust” under South Carolina law.
Chancellor Tisdale focused his arguments primarily on the Enforcement Petition filed in May 2018 (the Amended Petition from May 16, 2018, can be viewed here) and offered case law to support that since the case was sent on remittitur to Judge Dickson, it cannot be reheard, relitigated, or reconsidered. While the attorneys for the disassociated diocese made much of the 2-2 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court not to rehear the case in November 2017 as being ambiguous or unclear, Chancellor Tisdale read aloud the statement signed by all four justices in announcing this denial saying: “Therefore the petitions have been denied, and the opinions previously filed in this case reflect the final decision of the court.”
Judge Dickson asked many questions of both sides throughout the hearing, and in the end, he requested that both sides submit proposed orders on the Motion for Clarification. He asked that these orders address “how we got here,” the law of the case, and findings specifically supported by court records. He asked the attorneys to decide together the timeframe to submit the proposed orders.
“That was the most substantive hearing we have had to date with Judge Dickson on this case,” said Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr.