Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Rule of Law, or of One Man?

Capitol Hill is today, for better or worse, the last bulwark of this country's Rule of Law. If the Republicans -- given a majority in both Houses in order to stop the administration's lawlessness -- cannot hold the line against Obama's illegal amnesty measures, then the Rule of One Man will have triumphed over the Rule of Law. The Members of Congress might as well go home with their tails between their legs, and stop drawing their salaries, because they will not have earned them.

Fact: the Senate Democrats, mustered by the scurvy Harry Reid, insist that Congress appropriate money for Obama's administration to do something which Congress never authorized it to do.

Fact: If Congress did not authorize the administration to allow aliens here illegally to get work cards, Social Security numbers, drivers' licenses and three years' back worth of Earned Income Tax Credit, then the administration's proposal to give them all those things anyway is unconstitutional.

Fact: If the administration wants to operate outside the law, Congress has no obligation to vote it the money it needs to do so -- in fact, it is just the opposite: Congress must withhold that money, or it will become just an enabler of the Rule of One Man, and might just as well, as I say, go home in disgrace.

Fact: If the Senate Democrats and Dirty Harry Reid want to prevent the Department of Homeland Security's appropriations bill from passing unless it includes funds for One-Man Rule, I say: Let them! We know they care nothing for the Constitution or their oaths of office, so why should anyone even bother to give them the time of day?

Fact: If the DHS appropriations bill does not pass, guess what? Ninety percent of DHS will go right on operating -- just without the funds to do more illegal things than it is already doing. And those who are required to show up to to work without being paid may begin to learn what it means to work for a lawless administration.

Fact: Yes, the Department of Homeland Security is already illegally issuing work permits to those aliens who are not entitled to them under the law: since 2009, when Obama took office, it appears to have issued 7.4 million of them. So what's another paltry 9 million? We have One-Man Rule already, and have had it for six years.

Fact: Although Obama ought to be impeached over this, as well as over so many other of his acts contrary to the country's laws, Congress just will not do it. The House of Representative has the votes to pass a bill of impeachment, but the Senate has nowhere near the 67 votes needed to convict. Which is to say: there are at least 21, and potentially as many as 54, traitors to the Rule of Law now sitting in the Senate. And we elected them -- every damned one.

Where, then, does that leave the country? In the hands of a scofflaw who has Congress buffaloed. A scofflaw who vetoes the Keystone Pipeline bill because it "infringes upon his executive prerogatives", while he goes right on infringing on the prerogatives of the legislative and judicial branches with impunity.

I'm with Ann Coulter on this one:
If a Republican majority in both houses of Congress can't stop Obama from issuing illegal immigrants Social Security cards and years of back welfare payments, there is no reason to vote Republican ever again.




Monday, February 23, 2015

SC Court Makes Short Shrift of ECUSA's Motion

As reported here, the Episcopal Church (USA) and its rump group in South Carolina filed a 182-page motion for reconsideration with Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein, asking her to reverse her earlier decision in favor of Bishop Lawrence, the trustees and the parishes of his Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Late this afternoon, Judge Goldstein filed a response denying their motion.

Once you get past all the parties who had to be served with it, Judge Goldstein's order disposing of ECUSA's motion is just two pages in length. She first notes that the largest part of the motion was simply a regurgitation of the draft judgment ECUSA had submitted at the end of the post-trial briefing, and the arguments it had made during the trial -- all of which she had rejected in her 46-page opinion finding in Bishop Lawrence's favor:
This matter is before the Court by way of Defendants' motion for reconsideration brought forth pursuant to South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e). The Court has studied Defendant's lengthy motion extensively and oral argument would not be of assistance to the Court. The Court finds that the motion raised no novel issues for the Court's consideration with the exception of the doctrine of judicial estoppel raised on pages 47 and 48 of Defendants' Motion. Large portions of the motion are simply the proposed orders previously submitted to the Court or reiterations of the Defendants' positions at trial. 
Next Judge Goodstein addresses the defendants' judicial estoppel argument. Her explanation of the doctrine is as good as I could give, and is further grounded in applicable South Carolina precedent:
The Court finds that the Judicial Estoppel argument is without merit. The South Carolina Supreme Court defined Judicial Estoppel as "(l) two inconsistent positions taken by the same party or parties in privity with one another; (2) the positions must be taken in the same or related proceedings involving the same party or parties in privity with each other; (3) the party taking the position must have been successful in maintaining that position and have received some benefit; ( 4) the inconsistency must be part of an intentional effort to mislead the court; and (5) the two positions must be totally inconsistent." Cothran v. Brown, 357 S.C. 210, 215-16, 592 S.E.2d 629, 632 (2004).
The ECUSA attorneys had argued that in the All Saints Waccamaw litigation, that began in 2000 under Bishop Lawrence's predecessor and had finally been decided only in 2009, the then Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina had argued that parishes could not amend their articles so as to leave the Diocese, and that the Dennis Canon prevented any parish from taking its property with it. They noted that under Bishop Lawrence, the Diocese reversed those positions -- after the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the Dennis Canon had no legal effect in South Carolina and that nothing in the governing documents prevented All Saints from amending its corporate articles, Bishop Lawrence not only had declined to petition for review of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, but he had even given quitclaim deeds to each of his parishes in recognition of the fact that the Diocese had no legal interest in their properties.

So, ECUSA argued, Bishop Lawrence should have been prevented, by the doctrine of "judicial estoppel," from so changing course and citing All Saints as a precedent to Judge Goodstein. Instead, they contended, he was required to stick to the same old arguments his predecessor had made before the South Carolina Supreme Court's 2009 ruling.

Except -- their argument overlooked one small but highly significant detail: as a decision by the State's highest court, All Saints Waccamaw is binding on all churches similarly situated -- including specifically, the Episcopal Church which had lost its argument to that Court -- and on all lower courts in South Carolina. Look at how Judge Goodstein disposes of ECUSA's present argument in one paragraph:
The All Saints matter is a separate and distinct matter from the current litigation. Further, the positions of the Diocese in All Saints were found to be incorrect. If the Defendants' argument in the instant action was correct, no party previously adjudicated to be wrong would be able to correct their conduct in compliance with a court's holding. Such a result would be contrary to all sense of justice and order. Further, there is no evidence that the inconsistent positions were part of an intentional effort to mislead the court. The Doctrine of Judicial Estoppel does not apply.
So much for that futile argument, ECUSA. But Judge Goldstein reserves the best for last. Here are the final three lines of her order, reproduced exactly as she wrote them, with her final punctuation:
With regards all other matters presented in Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration, they are hereby DENIED.  
AND IT IS SO ORDERED!
In light of this order and the earlier one by the Illinois judge a few days ago, one gets the feeling that the courts these days are getting somewhat disgusted with ECUSA's inability to understand when its opponents have won.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Annual Litigation Survey for the Episcopal Church (USA) 2015

It is a fact well known to certain Episcopalians—both those who have left the Episcopal Church (USA) and those who have remained—that ECUSA and its dioceses have followed a pattern of suing any church that chooses to leave for another Anglican jurisdiction. But the full extent of the litigation that has ensued is not well known at all, either in the wider Church, or among the provinces of the Anglican Communion. (Otherwise -- one would think -- it would never have been deemed to be conduct to be rewarded by this honorary degree, rather than this one.)

Your Curmudgeon proposes to do what he can to rectify this situation, by publishing an annual update on this site of the current status of all past and present cases in which ECUSA or any of its dioceses has been or is involved, from 2000 to date. Feel free to link to this post, to email links to it to other Episcopalians, and to send it to your Bishop -- and feel free to post any updates or corrections in the comments. In another update to be posted as General Convention approaches, I will publish a revised total for all of the money spent by ECUSA and its Dioceses to date on prosecuting all of these lawsuits (and, in the case of the second group below, defending them).

The lawsuits initiated by ECUSA and its dioceses to date are first listed below. They far outnumber, as you can see, the second list of the eight cases begun by a diocese or parish against the Episcopal Church (or a diocese). The listing endeavors to be as complete as I can make it. The first 83 cases, generally grouped by the State in which they each originated, are the legal actions filed since 2000 (of which I am aware) where the Episcopal Church (USA) and/or one of its dioceses played the role of plaintiff—the party who initiates a case in court by filing a complaint to seize the assets and real property of any church choosing to leave ECUSA. Please note that wherever possible the actual citation of any published decision in the case has been given. Also, please note the dates for the later cases, which demonstrate the acceleration of litigation by ECUSA and its dioceses in defiant rejection of the Primates’ call for a moratorium on litigation at the Dar es Salaam meeting.

Note also that in accordance with the policy of those Presiding Bishops who preceded the current one (whose term began in November 2006), the Episcopal Church (USA) did not voluntarily get involved in property disputes between parishes and their dioceses. The great majority of cases below in which ECUSA was or is a party stem from 2007 and afterwards.

1. Against Christ Anglican Church in Mobile, Alabama (plaintiff was the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast---the suit settled in 2001 before trial, and Anglican congregation moved out; they built a brand-new church in 2005, while the historic Episcopal site became the cathedral of the Diocese that same year)

2.-4. Against St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook, California (CA); St. Anne’s, in Oceanside CA; and Holy Trinity, in Ocean Beach, CA (plaintiff in all three cases is the Diocese of San Diego -- trial court ruled against the two latter parishes following the decision by the California Supreme Court in the St. James Newport Beach case; parishes decided not to appeal)

5. New case by TEC against St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fallbrook, CA: Dale W. New, Richard L. Goodlake and the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego v. The Rev. Donald L. Kroeger, et al. (following its decision in the St. James case (No. 6 below), the California Supreme Court ordered republished the decision of the Fourth Appellate District [167 Cal.App.4th 800, 84 Cal.Rptr.3d 464 (2008)], awarding the property to the plaintiff Diocese of San Diego; the defendants did not seek further review)

6-8. Against St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach CA and two others; Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. St. James (Newport Beach) et al. (lead case), Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. All Saints (Long Beach) et al., Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and ECUSA v. St. David's (North Hollywood) et al.; Episcopal Church Cases, S155094 (Diocese of Los Angeles is plaintiff, joined by ECUSA; following its decision overruling the defendants' demurrers and reversing the trial court's grant of a motion to strike [45 Cal.4th 467, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 275, 198 P.3d 66, cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 179 (2009)], the California Supreme Court subsequently reversed a judgment entered against St. James and ordered that the case go forward; trial court granted a questionable summary judgment which is now on appeal. Similar trial court rulings against the other two parishes are also on appeal.)

9. Against St. Luke’s of the Mountains Anglican Church, et al, La Crescenta CA; Patricia Huber, The Right Rev. Sergio Carranza, The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles, The Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles v. The Rev. Dr. Ronald W. Jackson, St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church, et al. (Fourth Appellate District ruled in favor of Plaintiff Diocese of Los Angeles [175 Cal.App.4th 663, 96 Cal.Rptr.3d 346]; parish decided not to appeal further)

10. Against St. John’s Anglican Church in Petaluma, CA; Episcopal Diocese of Northern California v. St. John's Anglican Church, Petaluma (Sonoma County Superior Court; parties agreed to settle following California Supreme Court decision, parish moved to another location and is now a member of ACNA); (Diocese of Northern California was plaintiff)

11. Against Bishop John David Schofield and the diocesan investment fund in the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, CA (ACNA); Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, The Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb and The Episcopal Church v. Bishop John-David Schofield and The Episcopal Foundation of San Joaquin (Fresno Superior Court; case involves the Diocese of San Joaquin withdrawing from the Episcopal Church); (the TEC-established and -funded Diocese of San Joaquin is the Plaintiff); case went back to Superior Court after successful appeal by Bishop Schofield to the Fifth Appellate District [190 Cal.App.4th 154, 118 Cal.Rptr.3d 160]; trial court ruled that the Schofield decision dictated an outcome in favor of the Episcopal Diocese and ECUSA, and ordered the Anglican Diocese to turn over all its money and real property; case is once again on appeal to the Fifth Appellate District

12. Against St. Columba’s Fresno, CA and its rector and its vestry members, in Fresno County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; case is stayed pending the outcome of No. 11 above

13. Against St. Francis Anglican Parish of Turlock, CA, its rector and its vestry members, in Stanislaus County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; case settled following the Kern County decisions (##14-15 below); the parish moved out to new premises

14-16. Against St. Michael’s Anglican Parish of Ridgecrest, CA, its rector and its vestry members, in Kern County Superior Court (2010); against St. Paul’s Anglican parish in Bakersfield, CA, its rector and its vestry members, in Kern County Superior Court (2010) (this was Bishop Mark Lawrence's parish before he went to South Carolina); and against the (nonexistent) Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Redeemer Parish in Delano, CA, in Kern County Superior Court (2010); trial court granted summary judgment in the first two cases; the parishes decided not to appeal, and each moved to different premises (there was no effective congregation in Delano -- the property had been rented to another denomination, and it went to the plaintiffs by agreement with the Anglican Diocese)

17. Against the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. John’s Parish in Porterville, CA, in Tulare County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; case is stayed pending the outcome of No. 11 above

18. Against the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Paul’s Parish in Visalia, CA, in Tulare County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; case is stayed pending the outcome of No. 11 above

19. Against St. James Church, Sonora, CA, its rector and its vestry members, in Tuolumne County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs were the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; Anglican Diocese agreed to turn over the property to the Episcopal Diocese after the church's rector and his wife were killed in an automobile collision

20. Against the Wardens and Vestry of St. John’s, Stockton, and its rector and its vestry members, in San Joaquin County Superior Court (2010); plaintiffs are the remnant diocese of San Joaquin and its bishop; trial court granted summary judgment in April 2014 against the parish, which decided to move out and not appeal; parish is now St. Francis of Assisi Anglican

21-29. Against the rectors and vestry members of the same nine parishes in Nos. 12-20 above, in the same Superior Courts in CA, respectively (2011) (these were complaints in intervention filed by the Episcopal Church)

30. Against Trinity Anglican Church in Bristol, Connecticut (CT); plaintiff is the Diocese of Connecticut; case settled in 2008; congregation left property to the Diocese

31. Against The Rector and former vestry of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, CT; plaintiff was the Diocese of Connecticut; parish lost decision in trial court, and Connecticut Supreme Court recently affirmed that decision (302 Conn. 408, 28 A.3d 302); parish’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in June 2012, along with a Presbyterian case from Georgia (132 Sup.Ct. 2773)

32. Against Redeemer Anglican Church in Jacksonville, FLEpiscopal Church in the Diocese of Florida v. Lebhar, Case No. 16-2006-CA-002361 (Duval Cnty. Fla. Cir Ct.); plaintiff was the Diocese of Florida; parish left property to go to other premises

33. Against St. Andrew’s in the Pines Anglican Church, Fayette County, GA, Superior Court, Civil Action No. 2007-V0272C, October 2007; plaintiff was the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta; parish left its property behind and formed a CANA congregation

34. Against Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia, GA; Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Inc., The Episcopal Church, et al. v. The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church in Savannah, et al. (Civil Action No. CV07-2039KA, Superior Ct., Chatham County); plaintiffs Diocese of Georgia and ECUSA, joined subsequently by shadow congregation formed by the Diocese, won in Court of Appeal and recently in Georgia Supreme Court [290 Ga. 95, 718 S.E.2d 237]; congregation handed over keys to property on 12/12/2011, later dismissed petition to U.S. Supreme Court, has now moved into a newly renovated, 100-year-old church

35. Against Bishop Alberto Morales, of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy, IL, members of the diocesan standing committee, and the rectors of fifteen parishes in the diocese, individually; plaintiffs are ECUSA and its Diocese of Chicago, into which the rump diocese merged on September 1, 2013; case is still pending, despite the successful outcome of the appeal in the case originally brought against ECUSA by the Anglican Diocese -- see case number 5 in the second group below; it should shortly be dismissed.

36. Against All Saints Church in Attleboro, MA; plaintiff was the Diocese of Massachusetts; the case settled in 2007

37. Against Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, MO; plaintiffs were Bishop Wayne Smith of the Diocese of Missouri and ECUSA (joined as a necessary party, due to its claimed interest under the Dennis Canon); trial court awarded the church property to the Diocese on summary judgment in October 2004; majority of parish left to start AMiA parish at other premises; Episcopal congregation remains in possession

38. Against St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Omaha, NE; plaintiff is the Diocese of Nebraska; trial court denied parish’s motion for summary judgment, and granted summary judgment to the Diocese; the case settled pending appeal, and the parish kept its building

39. Against the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY; The Diocese of Central New York v. The Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Index No. 2008-0980 (N.Y. Sup Ct. Broome Cnty.); plaintiff was the Diocese of Central New York, joined by TEC; trial court ruled in favor of Diocese, parish chose to move to other premises, and Diocese eventually sold church buildings to Muslim group for a mosque

40. Against St. Joseph’s Anglican Church (formerly Trinity Church of East New York) in Brooklyn, NY, which originally separated from ECUSA in 1977, before the adoption of the Dennis Canon; plaintiff was the Diocese of Long Island, in a second action brought in 2005 after it lost its first suit, filed in the early 1980's---the case settled early in 2008, and St. Joseph’s kept its property in exchange for a below-market value payment of $275,000

41. Against St. James Anglican Church in Elmhurst (Queens), NY; plaintiff was the Diocese of Long Island; summary judgment against the parish in March 2008 was not appealed

42. Against All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church in Rochester, NY; Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, et al. v. Harnish et al., Index No. 2006-2669 (N.Y. Sup Ct. Monroe Cnty.); plaintiff was the Diocese of Rochester; N.Y. Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Diocese, based on NY statute giving effect to Dennis Canon (11 N.Y.3d 340, 899 N.E.2d 920 [2008])

43. Against St. Andrew’s in Syracuse, NY; Diocese of Central New York, et al. v. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Index No. 2006-4606 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Onondaga Cnty.); plaintiff originally was the Diocese of Central New York, and TEC's Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society later intervened---Diocese refused to settle the lawsuit by leasing property to parish, so parish walked away in 2007

44. Against St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Morehead City, NC; plaintiff was the Diocese of East Carolina and those members of the parish who had not voted to join AMiA; following a jury mistrial, plaintiffs obtained summary judgment which was affirmed on appeal in Daniel v. Wray, 580 S.E.2d 711 [N.C. App. 2003])

45-49. Against St. Luke's Church in Akron, OH and four other northeast Ohio parishes; The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, et al.v. Anglican Church of the Transfiguration, et al., Civil Action No CV 08 654973 (Cuyahoga County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas); plaintiff is the Diocese of Ohio; trial court granted summary judgment in its favor, and parishes have left their properties

50. Against the Church of St. James the Less, Philadelphia, PA; In re Church of St. James the Less, 585 Pa. 428; 888 A.2d 795 (2005); (Plaintiff was the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and ultimately prevailed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2005; other than its use for a middle school, this historic church building remains still without a rector and a supporting local congregation as of 2015)

51-53. and ?? Against the 50+ churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican- Southern Cone), PA. Plaintiff is the TEC replacement Diocese of Pittsburgh, arising out of an earlier lawsuit initiated by Calvary Church, Pittsburgh against Bishop Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh to prevent them from leaving TEC. The judgment by the trial court required the Anglican Diocese to turn over all of its property to the remnant Episcopal Diocese, was affirmed by the Commonwealth Court in early 2011, and review was later denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Two parishes have since settled with the remnant diocese, which demanded that the first (St. Philip's) disaffiliate from the Anglican Diocese, and that the second (Somerset Anglican Fellowship, which did not own any real property) return all of its personal property, and not support any litigation against the replacement diocese; a third parish (St. David's) moved out rather than agree to have to "repurchase" its property. Negotiations are ongoing to settle the claims of the remnant diocese against the properties of the other parishes.

54.  Against Bishop Mark Lawrence personally, in Federal District Court in SC, on claims of trademark infringement; plaintiff was Provisional Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg of the rump group established by ECUSA after the Diocese of SC withdrew; district judge's dismissal of the lawsuit on abstention grounds was appealed to the Fourth Circuit, and argued a few weeks ago; see also No. 7 in cases brought against ECUSA below

55. Against St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Nashville, TN; Plaintiffs were the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and Bishop Bauerschmidt; plaintiffs prevailed on summary judgment in the trial court, which was affirmed on appeal in an unreported decision in 2011; Tennessee Supreme Court recently denied review -- parish has vacated its prime property and associated nursery school, and Bishop Bauerschmidt has moved his diocesan headquarters there

56. Against Church of the Good Shepherd, San Angelo, TX; plaintiff is the Diocese of NW Texas; parish lost below and in the Court of Appeal, and after arguments in 2012, Texas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal and remanded for proceedings using "neutral principles" without reference to the Dennis Canon, which the Court held was ineffective in Texas to create a trust (422 S.W.3d 594 [2013]); Diocese and ECUSA's motions for rehearing and petitions for review in the U.S. Supreme Court were both denied, and case is back in trial court, awaiting summary judgment

57. Against the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker and the other trustees of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, TX; plaintiffs, the remnant diocese and its appointed bishop, were later joined by the Episcopal Church, and the lawsuit was subsequently broadened to include all individual parishes of the remnant diocese as cross-complainants, and all individual parishes of +Iker’s Episcopal Diocese as cross-defendants; the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the remnant diocese and its bishop in early 2011 was appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court, which reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case for trial under "neutral principles" (422 S.W.3d 646 [2013]); Diocese and ECUSA's motions for rehearing and petitions for review in the U.S. Supreme Court were both denied, and case is back in trial court; hearing on cross-motions for summary judgment held Feb. 20, and decision expected soon

58. Against St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Ft. Worth, in Hood County District Court, TX; plaintiff is the remnant diocese of Ft. Worth and Bishop Ohl, its provisional bishop; plaintiff seeks to have the proceeds of a trust fund left to St. Andrew’s, which remains with Bishoip Iker and his Diocese, turned over to the remnant group; the trial court stayed the proceedings pending the outcome in the case described in the previous paragraph

59. Against the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker individually, for alleged trademark infringement, in federal district court in Ft. Worth, TX; plaintiffs are the remnant diocese and its bishop; court dismissed the case after the ruling by the TX Supreme Court in No. 57 above

60. Against The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker, individually, and unnamed agents and representatives acting with him as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth, in federal district court in Ft. Worth, TX; plaintiffs are privately supported members of the vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church, Ft. Worth, carrying through on their threat made in a letter of January 21, 2009 published by Stand Firm; the grounds alleged were very similar to those alleged in the suit described in the previous paragraph; the federal court dismissed the case following the ruling by the Texas Supreme Court; now, however, in the State court action (No. 57 above), Judge Chupp has severed the case of All Saints for a separate trial in March 2015 -- probably due to the fact that All Saints is a corporation with some parcels of property in its own name

61. Against Church of the Epiphany Herndon, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, CL 2007-1235 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

62. Against Truro Church Fairfax, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Truro Church, CL 2007-1236 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

63. Against Christ the Redeemer Church, Chantilly VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Christ the Redeemer Church, CL 2007-1237 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

64. Against Church of the Apostles, Fairfax VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Apostles, CL 2007-1238 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

65. Against The Falls Church, Falls Church VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. The Church at The Falls – The Falls Church, CL 2007-5250 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. 07-125, Circuit Court for Arlington County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

66. Against Potomac Falls Church, Potomac Falls VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Virginia v. Potomac Falls Church, CL 2007-5362 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. 44149, Circuit Court for Loudoun County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

67. Against Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, CL 2007-5364 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.) (formerly Case No. 44148, Circuit Court for Loudoun County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – parish agreed to settle with Diocese in 2011 for a five-year leaseback of its property, in exchange for its disaffiliation from CANA and agreement not to affiliate with any other Anglican entity so long as they occupy the premises

68. Against St. Margaret’s Church, Woodbridge, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Margaret’s Church, CL 2007-5682 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.) (formerly Case No. CL 73465, Circuit Court for Prince William Cnty., VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

69. Against St. Paul’s Church, Haymarket, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Paul’s Church, Haymarket, Case No. CL 73466 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

70. Against Church of the Word, Gainesville, VA: The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. Church of the Word, CL 2007-5684 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va. )(formerly Case No. CL 73464, Circuit Court for Prince William County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit; parish agreed to settle with the Diocese in early 2011 on terms similar to those with the Church of Our Savior, Oatlands, but retained possession of its (reduced) property by assigning to the Diocese the lion's share of a condemnation award from the State of Virginia

71. Against St. Stephen’s Church, Heathsville, VA; The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia v. St. Stephen’s Church, CL 2007-5902 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Va.)(formerly Case No. CL 07-16, Circuit Court for Northumberland County, VA); plaintiff is the Diocese of Virginia; note that parish filed initial petition to confirm its vote to affiliate with CANA pursuant to a "standstill" agreement with the Diocese, in order to allow negotiations over purchase price for property, that Diocese shortly afterward revoked that agreement on instructions from the new Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and filed this lawsuit – for its resolution, see news for cases 72-82 below

72-82. Against Truro Church and all of the Virginia Anglican churches affiliating with CANA above, Plaintiff is the Episcopal Church (USA); The Episcopal Church v. Truro Church, et al., CL 2007-1625 (Circuit Court for Fairfax County, VA; case was tried again in Circuit Court in 2011 following reversal by Virginia Supreme Court in 2010 of trial court’s earlier decision in favor of parishes; trial court ruled this time in favor of Diocese; all but one defendant have surrendered their property to the Diocese, with Truro leasing theirs back for a limited time; only The Falls Church appealed to the Va. Supreme Court, which ruled against it on a strange "implied trust" theory in 2013; petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied after being held over to four different conferences)

83. Against St. Edmunds Anglican Church, Elm Grove, WI; plaintiff is the Diocese of Milwaukee; trial court granted summary judgment against parish in 2011; parish later vacated the property, which remains vacant

As a matter of fairness, I also list the number of cases where the Episcopal Church (USA) or one of its dioceses is the defendant and not the plaintiff. There are only eight instances, as shown below. But in all but the first, it was the diocese (or ECUSA) which triggered the filing of a lawsuit by moving to take control of the individual church's assets, and the legal actions that followed were essentially a defensive response against those moves.

1. The earliest instance of a parish starting a lawsuit was in 2000, after a dispute arose between All Saints Parish, Pawley's Island, South Carolina (SC), the Diocese of South Carolina, and TEC in connection with the formation of the Anglican Mission in America. The suit eventually found its way to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which in September 2009 issued a decision finding that the Dennis Canon did not create any kind of a trust interest in parish property under South Carolina law, and ruling that the property remained with the parish despite its disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church (385 S.C. 428, 685 S.E.2d 163).

2. An action was brought in 2005 in federal district court by six parishes and their rectors (the “Connecticut Six”) against the Diocese of Connecticut, whose bishop had suspended the priests in question and taken over some of the church properties. The court dismissed the lawsuit the next year, and the diocese has since brought the actions listed as Nos. 30 and 31 above.

3. Grace Church & St. Stephens, Colorado Springs, CO, sought declaratory judgment against the Bishop and the Diocese of Colorado. However, in that suit, the plaintiff church sought a simple declaration that the diocese had no right, title or interest in its property, in response to an attempt by the diocese to freeze the church's bank accounts. The response of the diocese was to file a counterclaim against the church, its rector and 17 of its vestry and leading parishioners seeking millions of dollars in damages. The trial court granted judgment for the Diocese following a trial in 2009, and the parish chose not to appeal, but to move from the property to a new location.

4. The Diocese of the Rio Grande and St. Francis on the Hill (El Paso, TX): St. Francis began the suit with a claim for declaratory relief in response to the threat of suit by the diocese to take their property. Eventually the trial court granted summary judgment to the Diocese, and the parish left its property.

5. The Diocese of Quincy (IL) sued the Episcopal Church in 2009 for declaratory relief after the latter had asked the diocese’s bank to freeze its accounts. The trial court rendered a decision in the Diocese's favor in September 2013, finding that there was no provision in ECUSA's governing documents that kept a diocese from amending its constitution to remove the accession clause; ECUSA filed an appeal, in which its request was denied to join the Diocese of Chicago, into which the rump diocese of Quincy merged in September 2013; appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision in all respects in July 2014 (14 N.E.3d 1245 [2014]), and ECUSA's bid to have the Illinois Supreme Court review the case was denied in November 2014; ECUSA continued to try to freeze some of the Diocese's funds even after losing, and was severely chastised and sanctioned by the trial court in February 2015.

6. The parish of St. Paul's in Groton, CT last year filed a petition with a local court for a declaration that its property was free and clear of any trust interest under the Dennis Canon. The parish remains in the Diocese of Connecticut pending the outcome of the lawsuit (note: news of the lawsuit would be welcome in the comments).

7. The Diocese of South Carolina sued the Episcopal Church in January 2013 in the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County after the Church began “abandonment of Communion” proceedings against the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, which action triggered the Diocese’s immediate withdrawal. The suit was filed before TEC could fulfill its announced intention to sue the Bishop and the Diocesan trustees for the Diocese’s property and bank accounts, once it reorganized a new Episcopal diocese at a special convention in January 2013. The court entered a restraining order against anyone but Bishop Lawrence and his agents using the name and marks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which ECUSA and later the rump diocese agreed could become a preliminary injunction pending the trial or further notice. Then the rump diocese removed the case to Federal District Court, which after eight months remanded the case to the Court of Common Pleas. That court denied the rump diocese's motion to compel production of all emails and correspondence between Bishop Lawrence and his Chancellor, which order the rump diocese immediately appealed, without success. The case went to a fourteen-day trial in July 2014. On February 3, 2015 the trial court filed a 46-page decision ruling in favor of Bishop Lawrence and his parishes; ECUSA and the rump group filed a motion for reconsideration as a prerequisite to appealing the decision later this year, which the court denied on Feb. 23, 2015. The defendants have 30 days within which to appeal, at which time the plaintiffs will most likely file a motion to transfer the appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

8. The small parish of the Church of the Ascension in Middle River, MD filed suit against the Diocese of Maryland in April 2013 after it had declared the parish "imperiled", conducted a final service there, and then locked the congregation out. Although the parish could not support a full-time rector, it had $27,000 in the bank and income from a rental on the church property when the Diocese closed it down. The suit seeks a return of the property to the incorporated parish, which it says  Bishop Sutton signed over to the Diocese without any authority. The Diocese's defense is based on the Dennis Canon--which ironically states that it shall "shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons." To your Curmudgeon's knowledge, this is the first time that the Dennis Canon has been used in reverse: to take over the property of a parish that remains in the Diocese, instead of trying to leave it, by first declaring it "imperiled" and then by closing it down.