For the second time in less than a month, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein rejected arguments by The Episcopal Church and its subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, that the two groups are rightful owners of the churches, symbols and other assets of the Diocese of South Carolina.
In her Order denying the motion for reconsideration she stated, “Large portions of the motion are simply the proposed orders previously submitted to the Court or reiterations of the Defendants’ positions at trial.”
The motion had also argued that because the Diocese had argued legal positions in the All Saints case contrary to those now being presented, that Judicial Estoppel should apply. In response, Judge Goodstein sharply noted… “The court finds that the Judicial Estoppel argument is without merit….If the Defendants’ argument in the instant action was correct, no party previously adjudicated to be wrong would be able to correct their conduct in compliance with a court’s holding. Such a result would be contrary to all sense of justice and order… With regards all other matters presented in Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration, they are hereby denied.”
Earlier this month, Judge Goodstein ruled that the Diocese of South Carolina, its trustees and the 50 parishes — representing 80 percent of the members — that disassociated with the Diocese successfully withdrew from TEC in 2012, taking all their property, including churches, symbols and other assets. The ruling was the result of a three-week trial last summer in which over 50 witnesses testified.
TEC, dissatisfied with that decision, submitted a 182-page motion criticizing Judge Goodstein’s ruling, challenging her findings, arguing that she ignored evidence and demanding that she reverse her decision.
However, according to attorneys for the Plaintiff in the response they filed this morning, seventy percent of the motion contained TEC’s previously submitted proposed orders already rejected by the court. “In many places, the motion still contained the language of the “proposed order” from which it was lifted verbatim,” Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence said. As counsel for the Diocese of South Carolina stated in the response: “The law is intended to be, and in fact is, a highway for litigants to travel …it is not a carousel on which litigants are to ride in never-ending circular journeying.”