The South Carolina Supreme Court today dismissed an appeal from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina that sought to gain access to evidence in the lawsuit filed by a breakaway group against local Episcopalians.
The lawsuit is expected to be remitted to the Circuit Court in Dorchester County soon, according to Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr., Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The diocesan legal team is considering the next steps in the litigation, he said.
The ruling doesn’t address the merits of the appeal or the issue of whether TECSC is entitled to the documents it was seeking; it only addressed the procedural issue of whether the appeal could be heard while the case is still pending. The issue of the evidence could be brought up again, if necessary, after the conclusion of the case, Mr. Tisdale said.
The decision was signed by Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal and Justices Costa M. Pleicones, John W. Kittredge and Kaye G. Hearn.
The lawsuit now goes back before Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who had ordered that the case remain stayed, or on hold, pending the outcome of the appeal.
The plaintiffs in the case are church leaders who say they have “withdrawn” from The Episcopal Church and filed suit seeking control of the name and assets of the diocese. TECSC has been trying to gain access to an estimated 1,200 documents from correspondence between Beaufort attorney C. Alan Runyan and Bishop Mark Lawrence during the period leading up to the “withdrawal” in November 2012.
During the discovery phase of the case, TECSC has found evidence indicating that the “withdrawal” was the result of a long-held scheme by several individuals to gain control of the diocese and take it out of The Episcopal Church.