Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fifth District Holds that Minority Controls Corp Sole

In a rather contorted opinion published today, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, California ruled that although "the trial court made several errors in its analysis of the case", it would nevertheless affirm that court's decision to turn over all the disputed property of the former Diocese of San Joaquin to the remnant Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, which was first organized in March 2008 after its predecessor voted to leave the Episcopal Church (USA).

In so deciding, the Court of Appeal first rejected the contention that ECUSA and its remnant group were collaterally bound by the final decision of the Illinois Appellate Court rendered last year, which reached the opposite result for the Anglican Diocese of Quincy. It did not consider the Illinois case to be on all fours with this one, because the title to the church property in Illinois was held by an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, while in the San Joaquin case, the title was held by a California corporation sole.

With all due respect, this is a distinction without a difference. A corporation sole is every bit as much a religious organization as a religious not-for-profit corporation. The key question in the California case is: which diocese -- the Anglican one that withdrew from ECUSA in December 2007, or the newbie Episcopal one that started up on March 29, 2008 -- has the legal control of the corporation sole under California law?

The decision by the Court of Appeal does not address this key question. Indeed, it barely mentions the Anglican Diocese, and does not acknowledge its separate existence under California law, let alone its connection to the corporation sole. (The Episcopal plaintiffs made a strategic decision not to name the Anglican Diocese in their lawsuit, and to make the corp sole a plaintiff as though they already controlled it, because they wanted to pretend that they were the "only" diocese in San Joaquin. It looks as though the strategy confused the civil courts -- as it was doubtlessly intended to do.)

The case is not over yet -- the Anglican parties can ask the Court for a rehearing based on the factual mistakes it made in its opinion, and if the Court refuses to grant that request, they can ask the California Supreme Court to review the decision, which the Court of Appeal ordered be published in the official reports. (The California Supreme Court tends not to review unpublished opinions.) If such a request is filed, the parties will not know the disposition of the case for another 60 to 120 days.

Watch this space for more legal news as this matter continues to work its way through the courts.   


  1. Thank you,. Curmudgeon, for this biased account of the judicial decision. No doubt your schismatic 'majority'party is disappointed, but that's LAWYERS for you. I suppose there'll have to be a lot more money spent on lawyers - on both sides of this argument - before all the resources are exhausted and the lawyers depart. However, Christ is STILL Risen, Alleluia1 - regardless.


    1. Father Ron,
      What the late Bishop Schofield did was righteous and in the light of day. Those who brought suit against him acted in the dead of night. I know because I was a member of one of the congregations that chose to remain in TEc. When Bishop Schofield died, the Fresno Bee editor referred to him as "controversial". ENS referred to him as Mr. Schofield in reporting his death. I refer to him as courageous and a godly man. I am honored to have been priested by him.

  2. And thank you, Father Ron, for responding with an equally biased comment -- which you see, I am not afraid to publish. Nevertheless, you still remain willfully ignorant of the huge sums that ECUSA is spending to win -- what? buildings that it can no longer fill with any Episcopalians, and so must sell (to others -- never to the parishes which they kick out). And it spends all that money just so that the congregations that ARE using the buildings to serve the risen Christ will be forced to go elsewhere to practice the faith that ECUSA has abandoned...

    Remind you of a certain dog in a manger? I thought not.

    1. Fr. Ron
      Indeed the Lord IS risen. His follower Paul said in First Corinthians 6:1-11 that we should not take our fellow Christians to court. ECUSA makes a habit of doing this. I have been a follower of Mr. Haley for some time and admire him for his endurance. I left my beloved Episcopal Church many years ago as I felt it was leaving Christ. I am now glad that I am Catholic, but will always mourn for what happened to the church I chose as a teenager.

    2. My husband and I came up with this super hero humor and our daughter pointed out that it was too cheesy to be posted. But we wanted to share it with you.

      Robin: Holy Church Schism Batman! Dirty Rotten Blasphemy! (Clenching his fists.)

      Batman: Quick, Robin, let's race to the Batcave and activate the Bat lie detector machine. We will need it to thwart the most insidious wave of villainous litigation made by ECUSA Bishops in the history of its existence.

    3. Not counting he reply by MI I concur with Sheila above. I left the Episcopal church for Eastern Orthodoxy in 1986 as I saw that it was leaving Christianity. Well, judging from the way the episcibls have behaved since +Jon of El Ay is an example) I was right.
      Jim of Olym

  3. As frustrating as this case has been, just multiply it by the hundreds of other cases involving different legal issues that these courts have decided. How many of those decisions were questionable?

    Why appeal?

    Aren't we supposed to fight injustice? Isn't that the battle cry of TEc however misapplied it has been?

    "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause." Isaiah 1:17 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! Psalm 43:1

  4. Are these judges incompetent or just lazy? Do they know anything about the law?

    David Katzakian

    1. Their decision shows a confusion about the exact legal relationship between a diocese and its corporation sole. The subject is a bit arcane even for seasoned judges, but clarity was not aided by the plaintiffs' tactic of simply claiming the corp sole as theirs outright and then filing suit with it as a putative plaintiff. The Court's decision never analyzes how that could happen under California law; it just glides over the point.

    2. My family and I also left our TEC parish located in Washington State in 1999 after exchanging several emails with our priest regarding him and the church teaching folks to celebrate sexually immoral behaviors. The priest was willing to ignore the Bible's clear meaning, and he gladly led the children and members of his parish family astray.

      It should also be noted that this church also had a priestess once deliver an American Independence Day sermon that was anti-American. It was an apologetic sermon about America's bad behaviors. In it, she discussed the worthiness of all faiths, and especially the Buddhist & Islamic faiths.

      We were subsequently, publicly disowned by a family member for suggesting the possibility privately to our parents that he did not believe the Bible. Our Episcopalian parents went along with the family member at that time. They have since left ECUSA, but still refuse to speak with us about what had happened. Though we've made efforts, we've since had no substantial relations with this family in 15+ years.

      We all need prayer and we all need salvation. I pray for myself and others, that we may rise to do our best to remain firmly grounded in the Bible. Thank you, friendly Anglican Curmudgeon blogger, for your insightfulness!

      PS The California Court system is politically savvy. They did a similar thing (with Federal Judges helping) in deciding how to move the Prop 8 case to a foregone conclusion. It is not on accident that the church cases have moved through the system with such force.

  5. We appear to be approaching a point where (if I read you correctly), there will ultimately be decisions going one way - in Illinois and Texas - and another - in California and South Carolina. (In passing, what possible reason can there be for the South Carolina court to sit on a judgment in the way that they have done?) Will not the US Supreme Court ultimately be bound to adjudicate an appeal (from somebody) and what decision are they likely to reach given the court's current configuration?

  6. Thank the Cosmic Force for having given us our Rabbi Alex....I am working through my second reading of Milton Finch's book...tedious, brilliant, super-informative....and the second readings of our Rabbi's observations and comments concerning these confounding legal issues.....It is enough to make a common man's mind explode.....but, as a Verifiably Old Man, and acolyte of our Rabbi, as is Mr. Finch.....Our Rabbi has the truth, both in terms of the law, and the traditions. We are either Orthodox or Unitarian....Let us return to the inefficient traditions and language....to our Catholic past....with malice towards none and charity to those who accept it....offering an open door to those seeking an hospital for the spiritually ill, who wish to hear..." ....who hear the comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn unto Him.
    Come unto me, all ye who travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.
    For God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

    This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

    If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous and He is the propitiation for our sins.

    Borrowed from the 1928 Book and Saints Matthew, John, Paul, and Timothy

    El Gringo Viejo