The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has filed notice that it is appealing a judge's decision to give a breakaway group the name and property of The Episcopal Church diocese in eastern South Carolina, and has asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to take up the case in an effort to avoid expense and delay for all parties.
The notice of appeal was filed Tuesday with the state Court of Appeals in Columbia by The Episcopal Church and its local diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. TECSC represents 30 congregations and about 7,000 Episcopalians who remain connected to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion after a breakaway group announced it was leaving the church in November 2012.
A few months after the split, the breakaway group sued The Episcopal Church, and later added TECSC as a defendant, seeking control of all the diocesan property, the official name and seal, and the properties of the parishes who joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
That case went to trial in July 2014 in Circuit Court in St. George before Judge Diane S. Goodstein. In February, the judge ruled in favor of the breakaway group. Tuesday's filing is an appeal of that decision.
Also on Tuesday, TECSC attorneys filed a "Motion to Certify" with the state Supreme Court, asking the high court to bypass the appeals court and hear the appeal, given the importance of the case and “the desire to streamline the litigation.”
The motion notes that there are more than 3 dozen plaintiffs in the breakaway group and a greater number of lawyers representing them, and asks the court to consider steps such as letting the parties provide documents to one another electronically, rather than with printed copies. The Episcopal Church has consented to the motion.
TECSC and The Episcopal Church earlier had asked Judge Goodstein to reconsider her February 3 order, a step that was necessary before it could be appealed. The 180-page Motion for Reconsideration took issue with “findings of fact” and conclusions in the 46-page order and cited dozens of instances in which the ruling doesn’t fully address evidence, makes incorrect statements, or fails to consider relevant points of law. The judge rejected the motion February 13, clearing the way for the appeal.