07 May 2009

The spin goes on in San Joaquin and in Newport Beach

SINCE THE FRESNO COURT released it's summary judgment, the blogs have been abuzz with armchair commentaries. For the most part, the comments have all been predictable. I can summarize ninety-eight percent of them in one sentence:
    The activist, atheist judge doesn't understand California, Federal, or Canon Law; if the had a modicum of judicial intelligence, he would have recognized that TEC is the great Satan and Schofield is an innocent persecuted messiah.
Occasionally a comment is both interesting and revealing.
The other side doesn’t have much of a case if this goes to trial, so they are using “summary judgment” and other procedural endeavors to avoid a trial. They hope to run us out of money and win by default, which would be a real shame.
This comment reveals a complete lack of understanding of what the summary judgment actually means. The court found Schofield's arguments so "nonsensical" that it could not substantiate a single claim. The court found that TEC's case was so strong, it could not be controverted.

But, perhaps TEC's case was weak and Schofield's group lost its own case. In an article by George Conger at Religious Intelligence, Canon Bill Gandenberger said
[T]he judge’s opinion was a “preliminary ruling which shall be argued against in court tomorrow.” ... [We] look forward to the opportunity to present our positions properly and convincingly” before the judge.
In this statement Gandenberger revealed that either he and his legal experts could not submit a "properly and convincingly" written brief or that his personal charisma will cause the judge to ignore the facts of the case and be converted to the schismatic cause.

As for the financial ruination via costly litigation, well, that tactic was the "ace in the hole" for the schismatic assault of TEC. One of the puritan blogs has posted an appeal for substantial donations to the legal foundation so that the former leadership of Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, and Albany, in addition to San Joaquin, can "continue the fight."

There has been some grumbling about how a summary judgement comes about. A summary judgment is awarded if the undisputed facts and the law make it clear that it would be impossible for one party to prevail if the matter were to proceed to trial. In this case, that means the court considered all the facts and found the schismatic case so "nonsensical" that they could not win in trial. That is an unacceptable reality for the schismatics.

Grandenburger disagrees about the facts and points to just one issue to prove that the facts are not undisputed:
[I]n this case the judge’s assumption that as the Episcopal Church is “hierarchical” in a manner akin to the Roman Catholic Church is a disputed material issue of fact, upon which the whole case turns for the diocese.
Previous legal rulings have established the fact that TEC is, indeed, a hierarchical church. That is a fact - the courts say it is. Whether one accepts the fact does not disprove the fact.

[...]Attorneys for the diocese argued the judge erred as a matter of law in accepting the Episcopal Church’s expert witness testimony on the ecclesial structures of the Episcopal Church as uncontroverted, while the diocese’s expert witness testimony offered contrary evidence, asserting that when the two sides dispute the facts to which the law is applied, there is a disputed issue of fact, and as such the matter cannot be resolved via a summary judgment.
Telling the judge that he doesn't understand the law isn't exactly the best way to win one's case. But, once again we hear the same story
    We don't care what the facts actually are. Truth and facts are what we say they are. We are right and the world is wrong.
Control of "truth" is a hallmark of despotic movements.

Whatever the reality of Monday's summary judgment, one thing is certain: the "hoped for" third province in North America received a monumental setback. The fundamentalists can spin the facts any way they wish, but they cannot dismiss the monumental legal victory awarded to TEC.

IN ANOTHER SCHISMATIC NEWS ITEM, it appears that the former leadership of St. James', Newport Beach,
Will file a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to resolve an important issue of religious freedom: Does the United States Constitution, which both prohibits the establishment of religion and protects the free exercise of religion, allow certain religious denominations to disregard the normal rules of property ownership that apply to everyone else.
A writ of certiorari is a rare animal. It is "not a matter of right, but a judicial discretion. A petition for writ of certiorari will be granted only for compelling reasons." Rule 10, Rules of the U.S. Supreme Court. "

What that means is that, the losing side petitions to have their case reviewed even though there is no legal rationale for a review by the Supreme Court. It's basically the "Hail Mary pass" of the legal world.

The Supreme Court receives thousands of requests for a cert each year but normally accept less than one hundred. Rule 10 mentioned above states that the following, although neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court's discretion, indicate the character of the reasons the Court considers:

    (a) a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter; has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with a decision by a state court of last resort; or has so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings, or sanctioned such a departure by a lower court, as to call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power

    (b) a state court of last resort has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with the decision of another state court of last resort or of a United States court of appeals

    (c) a state court or a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court, or has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with relevant decisions of this Court.

A petition for a writ of certiorari is rarely granted when the asserted error consists of erroneous factual findings or the misapplication of a properly stated rule of law.

If they refuse to grant the cert, it is over for the schismatics in Newport Beach but also Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth and every where clergy or vestry believe they own the property and can take it with them.

We must always remember one thing when we deal with the courts - take nothing for granted. So, there is a chance the court may grant the cert - slim chance. I believe the former leadership of San Joaquin might have a better chance for a cert than Newport Beach's schismatics, though.

For a group whose propaganda claims "it's not about the property," they certainly are willing to spend a lot of money to retain that about which they do not care.