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This order, entered by the Fifth District Court of Appeal yesterday, affords a glimmer of hope for Bishop John-David Schofield in the San Joaquin litigation that the Court will agree to review the decision granting summary adjudication by Superior Court Judge Corona, which I discussed in this earlier post. Bishop Schofield had filed a petition for review with the Court on Friday, August 21.
Bishop Lamb and his attorneys now have until September 15 to file an "informal" response to Bishop Schofield's petition, and the latter will then have until Monday, October 5 in which to file a reply. (Monday, October 5 will also be a red-letter day in other Episcopal Church litigation. It is the first Monday in October, when the United States Supreme Court officially returns from its summer recess, and thus is probably the day on which we shall learn whether or not the Court has agreed to review the decision by the California Supreme Court in the litigation between the Parish of St. James in Newport Beach and the Diocese of Los Angeles.)
The reason the Fifth District Court uses the word "informal" in its order is that it simply wants to hear from the other side (and then have a reply to that response) before deciding whether to grant full review of Judge Corona's decision. So nothing is certain yet; we will not know the Court's decision in that regard until sometime after October 5. Most petitions for early review are denied; and most of those which are denied are denied immediately, without even asking for a response from the other side. To have made it to this point is at least to have the case deemed worthy of a full set of briefs before a decision to grant review is made.
If the Court decides to grant review, it will probably calendar a hearing date, and set a schedule for formal briefs to be submitted before the hearing. If the court grants review, it could also enter a stay of the proceedings in Judge Corona's court until it acts on the merits of the petition -- i.e., decides whether to reverse Judge Corona's decision, to modify it in any way, or to let it stand.
I will have further to say about the arguments on both sides after Bishop Lamb and his diocese have filed their informal response.
One way or another, the California Fifth District Court of Appeal might be the first appellate court ever to decide whether or not a diocese has the legal ability to withdraw from the Episcopal Church (USA). No higher court to date has ever been presented with the question.