The Episcopal Church in South Carolina today asked Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein to call a halt to a breakaway group issuing multiple subpoenas, and hold them in contempt of court for ordering witnesses to appear for depositions in spite of her ruling that the case has been stayed.
Attorneys for the local Episcopal diocese filed a notice and motion to quash subpoenas from the group calling themselves “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” and “The Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” and find them in contempt of court.
They are two of the multiple plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against local Episcopalians in January 2013 in Dorchester County, seeking control of the name and assets of The Episcopal Church’s diocese in the eastern half of South Carolina. The group claims to have “withdrawn” the diocese from The Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, the local diocese that is recognized by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has been operating under the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina” until the identity dispute is resolved.
Currently, the case is before the South Carolina Court of Appeals, which effectively removes jurisdiction from Dorchester County. The breakaway group already has asked Judge Goodstein once to lift the stay, and she declined. The same motion was filed a second time a few days ago; Judge Goodstein has not ruled on the second motion.
“In disregard and contempt for all of the above, (the plaintiffs) have recently noticed many depositions starting as early as next week, and their counsel have issued many
subpoenas, wrongfully abusing their powers as officers of this court in matters for which this court lacks jurisdiction and has declined to lift the stay,” the TECSC motion says.
Starting in January, the breakaway group has been taking the unusual step of hiring a process server to track down local Episcopalians at their homes and workplaces and serve them with subpoenas to appear and give depositions. Normally, deposition schedules are arranged cooperatively between attorneys for the parties. So far, at least 10 people are known to have been subpoenaed by the breakaway group.