18 March 2009

California Supreme Court establishes binding precedent

Yesterday's post was somewhat confusing to many readers. Readers did not know if the post was about an old bit of news or something new. The 11 March ruling is new news, and it's good news: very good news.

In New v. Kroeger the Diocese of San Diego and TEC members of St. John's Episcopal Church, Fallbrook, brought an action against the schismatic majority of the parish who had resigned from the Episcopal Church yet claimed to be the owners of the parish. This included the clergy and vestry in their capacity as directors of a nonprofit religious corporation who, having left TEC, had reassigned the property to another eclesial community.

The plaintiffs asked for declaratory judgment that the newly elected vestry (those remaining in TEC) was the true vestry.

On 5 January the Court of Appeals released its decision in Episcopal Church Cases (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467. The judgment was for the plaintiffs (TEC). See this post for information about that ruling.

After the decision was handed down, the schismatics filed a petition for appeal.

On 11 March, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. In doing so, it upheld the appellate court’s ruling that a vestry may not vote to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and retain their power and control over the church property.

Furthermore, the Court ordered January's opinion to be republished making it binding precedent.

The Supreme Court has agreed with the diocese, the Episcopal Church, and the Appellate Court that:

  1. The former parish vestry members were disqualified from vestry membership by their resignation from the TEC;
  2. The parish vestry lacked authority to reassign the parish to a different church;
  3. That the courts were required to defer to the bishop's ruling that 'loyalist' vestry members were the true vestry;
  4. That even under general principles of law, 'loyalist' vestry members were the true vestry.

This is a major blow to the schismatics Although this case will not end litigation in other dioceses and states, the respective courts will look to this ruling when forming their opinions.

This is absolutely brilliant news for the faithful in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Why?

David nailed it in his comment on the previous post:

So logic says that a corollary would be-

When one leaves TEC, one ceases to be eligible to be on the Standing Committee. That invalidates all the schismatic Standing Committees, and thereby invalidates any decisions made by said Standing Committees including removing the diocese from TEC.

Standing committees are just glorified vestries They have no authority to "realign" a diocese under California Law. Folks, this is a monumental ruling, at least for California.

The Grapevine reports from the Episcopal news service on this decision.

Fred reported on this over last week at Off Topic.