Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina seeks state supreme court review of the church property case

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On Thursday, November 12, attorneys for The Diocese of South Carolina (also known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina) and The Episcopal Church filed an Initial Brief of Appellants with the South Carolina Supreme Court (filed along with this associated Designation of Matter). The brief was filed in response to the June 19, 2020 Order by South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson that seemingly overturned the Supreme Court final judgement from August 2017 which ruled that the diocesan property and 29 parishes should be returned to the parties affiliated with The Episcopal Church.

The Brief filed today clearly demonstrates that Judge Dickson exceeded his limited jurisdiction on remittitur by reinstating a declaratory judgement that the Supreme Court had reversed, and that the Circuit Court erred in failing to follow the result of the Supreme Court’s judgment as the law of the case. His June 2020 order is referred to in the brief as the “Dickson Order.”

Today’s filing noted that “of primary significance to the present appeal is this Court’s ruling on that appeal.” Documentation in the brief supports that the Supreme Court Justices, as well as the opposing side, referred to the opinion of the Court as a “majority opinion” and confirmed that this opinion “reversed” at least in part, the previous decision of the lower court under Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein. The Brief further noted that: “By ruling in favor of Respondents {the disassociated diocese} the Dickson Order issued a declaratory judgment that largely duplicated that of the now-reversed Goodstein Order.”

The majority of the 35-page Brief is a detailed Argument in support of our diocese’s standing in this case. It begins: “…the Supreme Court Ruling comprised a three-Justice majority that reversed the Goodstein Order, declaring that Appellants are entitled to the Diocesan Property and the Respondent Parishes’ property. That is the result in this case. The fact that the Court issued multiple opinions in deciding the case in no way dilutes the result – and that result is conclusive. Fundamental principles of judicial review precluded the Circuit Court, and indeed preclude this Court, from reviewing that result.”

Further the brief notes, “It is well beyond time for this Court bring this litigation to a close by vacating the Circuit Court’s reversal of the Supreme Court Ruling and ordering it to enforce that Ruling, including granting Appellants’ Petition for Execution and Petition for Accounting.”