March 30, 2013

South Carolina Update

As happened in Pittsburgh, the schism of an Episcopal Church diocese and the claims of the resulting parties have made it difficult to know how to identify the parties. For a time, Pittsburgh saw two groups calling themselves the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” In South Carolina, litigation has actually focused on diocesan names and seal, and the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is being prevented by a South Carolina court from using its proper name. In what follows, I will refer to the group continuing in The Episcopal Church, the group that is having to call itself “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” as the “continuing diocese.” I will refer to the breakaway group, the ex-Episcopalians calling their body the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” as the “breakaway diocese.
On March 28, 2013, the South Carolina continuing diocese filed responses and counterclaims to the South Carolina lawsuit initiated by the breakaway diocese. (The 84-page filing, dated March 27, can be found here.) In a March 29 post, the continuing diocese reported on the new filing on its Web site.

The latest legal move in the South Carolina saga is reported today by The Post and Courier of Charleston. The story notes Bishop Charles vonRosenberg’s apology for filing on Maundy Thursday, an action dictated by court deadline. The breakaway diocese is said to be withholding comment until after Holy Week.

The latest filing begins by answering the charges of the breakaway diocese, denying everything not explicitly admitted by the continuing diocese. This takes up the better part of 50 pages. There follows 18 additional defenses. Included in this litany are claims that the court lacks jurisdiction, that the plaintiffs have knowingly misrepresented the facts, that the plaintiffs have breached their fiduciary duties, etc. (A dictionary is helpful when reading these defenses. Certainly, I was unfamiliar with terms such as estoppel and laches.)

Beginning on page 56, the continuing diocese makes counterclaims and asserts that it is entitled to monetary damages, accounting of assets, and declaratory and injunctive relief. In particular, the court is asked to enter judgment:
  1. Ordering that the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice;
  2. In favor of the Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff on all claims in the Complaint;
  3. In favor of the Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff on all counterclaims asserted herein;
  4. Awarding to Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff actual, consequential, special, and punitive damages as determined by the Court and allowed by law;
  5. Awarding to Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff injunctive relief as the Court determines is warranted and as is allowed by law; and
  6. Awarding to Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff such other and further relief as the
    Court may determine is just, proper, and equitable.

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