Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quincy Funds Frozen Again; Defense Fund Needs Help

As I explained in this earlier post, the Anglican Diocese of Quincy was successful in obtaining a judgment that it had sole title to its bank accounts and real property. The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy had already merged into the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago by the time the judgment was entered, so the only adverse party left before the court was the Episcopal Church (USA), represented by the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, David Booth Beers, and by her Special Assistant for Litigation, Mary Kostel, as well as by local counsel Thomas B. Ewing, of Lewistown. They filed a motion to stay the effect of the judgment, i.e., to keep the Diocese of Quincy's funds in National City Bank in Peoria frozen pending appeal.

It should be noted that ECUSA never went through the formal steps to attach the Diocese's funds. It never submitted a motion for prejudgment attachment, or a declaration of hardship and necessity, and it never posted any bond. Mr. Beers simply wrote a letter to National City Bank purporting to advise it of the Church's claim on the funds, and stating that the Church would "hold [National City Bank] accountable for any dispositions made ... of such funds ...". The Bank responded by putting a hold on all of Quincy's accounts pending an order of court.

Thus the Diocese of Quincy was forced to file a lawsuit against ECUSA in order to try to recover the use of its operating and trust funds. That was in January 2009 -- nearly five years ago, when there was approximately $2.3 million in National City Bank. By the time judgment was entered, the untouched funds had grown (due to accumulated interest and appreciation) to about $4.1 million.

After Judge Ortbal heard ECUSA's motion for a stay pending appeal, he ordered that the judgment be stayed as to all except the sum of $1.1 million, which he directed the Bank to release so that the Diocese could pay deferred expenses, including its local counsel's legal fees. However, ECUSA objected even to this amount being released, and took its case to the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeals in Springfield, Illinois.

It filed an emergency request for stay with that Court, citing the need to act before Judge Ortbal's limited stay could be carried into effect. Notwithstanding that the appeal had not yet been docketed with that Court, and notwithstanding that there was no opportunity for the Diocese of Quincy to file any kind of response to ECUSA's request, the Court of Appeals obliged, and issued a blanket stay on all funds of the Diocese pending the outcome of the appeal.

The Diocese's attorneys filed a motion to reconsider with the Court of Appeals, and pointed out that they had not been given a chance to be heard; nor had the Court required ECUSA to post any kind of bond for the stay -- all standard requirements for the issuance of any stay. On October 24, the Court summarily denied the motion for reconsideration without holding a hearing.

Needless to say, these summary actions by a single motions judge on the Court of Appeals are troubling, due to the lack of due process and fair play which they evince. And the consequences to the Diocese of Quincy, which had looked forward to being able to pay some of its bills, are considerable. ECUSA has no lack of funds to pay its attorneys during the appeal, but Quincy does not enjoy that luxury. Ever since 2009, it has had to survive on current donations. And ever since 2009, its local attorneys have gone largely unpaid for all their work.

Now the Diocese has put out an appeal for contributions to its Defense Fund in order to provide for some payment for the ongoing work of the appeal. (Note: your Curmudgeon has donated all of his legal time and expenses to the Diocese, and does not stand to benefit in any manner from the Quincy Defense Fund.) If the reader of this post is in any position to help with a contribution to the fund, which is administered by the American Anglican Council, he or she may send a check made payable to that organization (with a memo: "Quincy Defense Fund") to:

Mark Gamage
3914 W Crimson Road
Dunlap, IL 61525

On behalf of the Diocese of Quincy and its hard-working attorneys, I thank all those who can help, and ask the rest of you for your ongoing understanding and support.

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