Fresno Judge Denies ECUSA’s Motion for Summary Judgment in San Joaquin

 

There is very good news for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, now under the leadership of Bishop Eric Menees. Last Thursday, the Fresno

Superior Court (Jeffrey Hamilton, J.) filed his decision adopting his tentative ruling of March 6 as his final ruling with respect to the Motion for sanjoachinSummary Judgment / Summary Adjudication filed by the plaintiff rump diocese and its bishop, Bishop Talton, and joined in by ECUSA itself.

The ruling denies ECUSA and its totem plaintiffs any summary judgment, because it finds that there are disputed issues of fact still to be resolved in connection with the Diocese’s right to withdraw from ECUSA, as it voted to do in December 2007. In so doing, it adopts the “neutral principles of law” approach prescribed by the Court of Appeals, and it correctly applies that approach to find that the plaintiffs failed to show, as a matter of law, that anything in ECUSA’s Constitution or canons, or anything in its long history with the Diocese, restricts the right of a Diocese to disaffiliate.

Now ECUSA will have to go to trial against Bishop Schofield on its claims that he was not authorized to lead his Diocese out of the Church. Since there was no canonical or constitutional provision which Bishop Schofield’s Diocese could be said to have violated when it voted to disaffiliate, the present ruling will make it that much more difficult for ECUSA to prove its claims at trial.

However, ECUSA is not out of arrows in its quiver yet. It has filed reply papers in the federal court litigation in South Carolina which attempt to make a wholly new argument for its priority in being able to decide, as a matter of federal law under the First Amendment, that Dioceses are not free to leave the Church without the consent of General Convention. But as you might well imagine, that is a very far-fetched and tenuous argument which will require the Curmudgeon to devote an entirely new post to its refutation. So, stay tuned!

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