Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A.S. Haley: San Joaquin Trial Concludes; Judge Sets Briefing Schedule

January 15, 2014

The trial in the case of Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin vs. Schofield finished in Fresno Superior Court on Monday, with the videotaped testimony of Bishop John-David Schofield played in a courtroom packed with both his admirers and his opponents. (Bishop Schofield passed away at his home last October, but his testimony had been preserved in 2011 in anticipation of the trial.)

At the conclusion of his testimony, both sides rested—the plaintiffs declined to put on any rebuttal evidence—and the court then put questions to counsel in lieu of closing arguments. Judge Donald Black began by asking the plaintiffs point-blank: “Can you show me just where in the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons it says that a member diocese may not amend its constitution so as to remove its accession clause?”

(The former Diocese of San Joaquin, under the leadership of then-Bishop Schofield, had voted on December 8, 2007 to amend its constitution and canons to replace language acceding to ECUSA’s constitution with language that affiliated the Diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Since then, the Diocese has called itself “the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.” However, when the newly formed rump Episcopal diocese brought this lawsuit in April 2008, it did not join the Anglican Diocese as a defendant, but only its bishop and its subsidiary property-holding entities.)

The plaintiffs’ counsel, of course, could point to no such language, because it does not exist. And with that one question, Judge Black put his finger on the crux of the case.

The Anglican parties contend that their 2007 amendments to disaffiliate from ECUSA were fully proper and valid under California secular law, as well as not contrary to any language in ECUSA’s governing documents. the rest


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