April 19, 2009

A Hearing at Last

I was away from my computer for much of Friday, April 17, and it was not until yesterday that I learned of the latest developments in Calvary Church v. Robert Duncan, et al. News from the Friday hearing was reported on the Web site of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and of The Episcopal Church (here and here, respectively). I wrote recently about the immediate issues in contention between the continuing Episcopal Church diocese and the reputed Southern Cone diocese led by deposed bishop Robert Duncan. It now looks like the case is going to move forward, possibly resolving a crucial issue. (My two most recent posts about the litigation are “Who Represents What” and “Calvary Lawsuit Heats Up.”)

Judge Joseph James made a number of rulings Friday: (1) Chancellor Andy Roman will be allowed to represent the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh. (2) The Episcopal Church itself is being allowed to enter the case on the side of the plaintiffs. (3) Morgan Stanley will not be ordered to unfreeze funds so that Duncan’s organization can use them. (4) A hearing is to be held on whatever significance the October 2005 stipulation has in the present circumstances.

In short, the plaintiffs got everything they could have expected from the judge at this point in the litigation, and the defendants got nothing. Duncan’s prospects for hanging on to the Episcopal Church assets he has removed from the church are looking poor indeed. In particular, attorneys for the defendants had objected to the entry of both Andy Roman and The Episcopal Church into the case. They had argued, for example, that Roman represented a “new” Diocese of Pittsburgh that had not properly been entered as a party to the litigation. The judge’s decision to ignore that objection suggests that he recognizes that the diocese that Roman represents is the same Episcopal Church diocese that has been a party to the suit almost from the beginning, albeit not always as a plaintiff. This is a big problem for the defendants, since they need their entity to somehow be “the Episcopal Church of the United States of America” referred to in the stipulation. If Roman’s client is “the Episcopal Church of the United States of America,” it is difficult to understand how Duncan could claim to be running an entity legitimately referred to by the same designation.

The defendants wanted hearings on Roman’s entry into the case and on whether a diocese can withdraw from The Episcopal Church, and they wanted those hearings before the relevance of the stipulation was determined. They wanted to exclude The Episcopal Church from the case, and they wanted access to the funds held by Morgan Stanley. They got none of that.

I predict that the hearing on the stipulation will result in a ruling that Roman represents the entity referred to in that agreement and that Duncan, et al., will be required to begin handing over the assets to the real Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. As far as I know, no time has been scheduled for the hearing.

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