Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Litigation - the Diocese of Georgia

ECUSA and the Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia filed a lawsuit against the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Georgia's oldest church, Christ Church in Savannah, after the latter voted unanimously to withdraw from the Diocese in 2006. The congregation ratified the vote to withdraw by an 83% majority; later, the minority parishioners and a rector appointed by the bishop requested, and were granted, leave to intervene on the side of the plaintiffs.

Both sides subsequently moved for summary judgment, arguing that the material facts were not in dispute. However, the facts about how ECUSA itself was formed, and about the nature of the relationship between ECUSA, its dioceses and parishes were in dispute, as matters turned out. Instead of denying both motions and setting the case down for trial on the disputed issues, the Judge of the Superior Court in the Eastern District, the Hon. Michael Karpf, accepted the version of the facts offered by the plaintiffs and their experts, and gave summary judgment in their favor. The defendants appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeals, which pretty much incorporated large parts of Judge Karpf's opinion into its own ruling affirming him. Christ Church has requested review by the Georgia Supreme Court. An interesting sidenote: two of the United States Supreme Court's most important decisions on the law of church property disputes were in cases decided first by the Supreme Court of Georgia: Presbyterian Church v. Hull Church, 393 U.S. 440 (1969) (holding Georgia's application of the implied trust doctrine to church property disputes unconstitutional); and Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979) (upholding the right of Georgia to decide church property disputes using "neutral principles of law") -- see this post for more details on those cases.

Striking out in Georgia

No comments:

Post a Comment