Episcopal Church in South Carolina pinning hopes on Federal Appeal

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after oral arguments were presented in Richmond, Va., last week.

Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, represented Bishop Charles vonRosenberg at the hearing on January 28. Bishop vonRosenberg also attended the 27-minute hearing. An audio recording of the proceedings can be found here: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/oral-argument/listen-to-oral-arguments#audiocurrent

The appeal seeks to have the case, vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, sent back to U.S. District Court in Charleston to be decided on its merits. Mr. Tisdale said a ruling could be issued in about 60-90 days.

The appeal focuses on the issue of false advertising under the federal Lanham Act. Bishop vonRosenberg is the only bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. Mark Lawrence, by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese, is committing false advertising, according to a brief filed with the appeals court in April. 

Hearing the arguments on January 28 were a three-judge panel consisting of Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, chair; Judge Roger L. Gregory; and Judge James A. Wynn, Jr.  The judges questioned attorneys for both sides, focusing on whether the lower court applied the correct legal standard for abstaining in the case. Each side was given a total of 20 minutes to speak.

Mr. Tisdale’s addressed the court first, presenting his arguments and answering questions from the judges for the allotted 15 minutes and reserving 5 minutes for rebuttal. Beaufort attorney Alan Runyan spoke and answered questions for about 10 minutes and concluded his remarks. The judges having no further questions, Mr. Tisdale waived his 5 minutes for rebuttal, and the hearing was adjourned.

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