Monday, March 10, 2014

The order list published this morning by the United States Supreme Court shows that, after relisting the case for its conferences four times, it has denied certiorari (review) in No. 13-449, The Falls Church v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, et al. Under its rules, the Court grants certiorari when at least four of the nine justices are interested in a given case; it takes five justices to make a majority.

This was potentially a huge decision for those suffering from years of the courts' misreading of Jones v. Wolf (1979), 443 U.S. 595, as detailed in numerous posts on this blog. The significance is that it would have been the first church property dispute which the Court has accepted for review since Jones -- some35 years ago. While the decision below (from the Virginia Supreme Court) is not based on ECUSA's Dennis Canon, it nonetheless is grounded in a misreading of how a national Church can unilaterally establish a trust in its favor on all parish property without the parishes themselves declaring the trust in question. Similar bad readings of the dictum in Jones have come from the Supreme Courts of Connecticut, Georgia and (now) Virginia.

It also means that the Diocese of Virginia will now go ahead with its plans for The Falls Church campus. Furthermore, it means that the approximately $3 million that TFC has paid into the Court's registry since April 2012 will now be handed over to the Diocese -- a windfall, if ever there was anything that went by that name.

The Court thus seems willing to live with the disorder and confusion created by its dictum in Jones, at least until its current membership changes. And ECUSA will go on sowing discord and confusion in the State courts.

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