Friday, May 23, 2014

Previously, I wrote about the tentative decision issued by Judge Donald Black of Fresno Superior Court in the case involving the withdrawal of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. His decision awards all of the diocesan monies, property and other assets to the remnant Episcopal Diocese on the theory that the Court of Appeals had already tied his hands, and left him with nothing to decide. Nevertheless, he went on to adopt ECUSA's theory of the case: that dioceses may not leave the Church, and that all property -- even of a diocese (notwithstanding the limited language of the Dennis Canon) -- is held in trust for the Church.

Once a judge issues a proposed tentative decision, California law allows any party to request a formal Statement of Decision which addresses matters not covered by the tentative decision. In this way, the parties help to ensure that the judge covers all the bases, and that there is a full articulation of the issues which is readily reviewable on appeal.

Yesterday, the attorneys for the Anglican parties submitted their Request for a Statement of Decision to Judge Black. The Request poses twelve questions to him which the Anglican parties contend he did not address adequately in his tentative decision. The questions in and of themselves probe the very underpinnings of his decision, and ask him to give his reasons for deciding as he did.

Following is the text of the first part of the Request.
Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 632 and California Rules of Court, rule 3.1590, et seq., defendants respectfully request that the Court issue a statement of decision explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision as to each of the following principal controverted issues at trial:
1. Whether the Diocese of San Joaquin that voted on December 8, 2007, to amend its constitution was a California unincorporated association under the provisions of Corporations Code section 18000, et seq.?
2. What textual analysis of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church , and of the Diocese of San Joaquin, compels the legal conclusion that a diocese has no power to amend its own governing documents to unilaterally withdraw from its religious association with the Episcopal Church?
3. What is the legal definition of a “hierarchical church” the trial court is using for purposes of giving deference to the internal decisions of the Episcopal Church in this case?
4. What is the authoritative ecclesiastical and adjudicatory entity or office within the Episcopal Church whose decisions in this matter are being given deference by the trial court?
5. Where is the authority of that ecclesiastical adjudicatory entity or office found in the governing documents of the Episcopal Church?
6. Which party bears the burden of proving the authority of the entity or office within the Episcopal Church claiming the power to resolve the dispute over diocesan disaffiliation?
7. Is there any body or office within the Episcopal Church with juridical authority over a member diocese and, if so, where is that juridical authority found in the governing documents?
8. Whether any bishop, including the Presiding Bishop, can act within a diocese outside of their own, without the consent of the Ecclesiastical Authority, i.e., the diocesan bishop or diocesan Standing Committee, and, if so, where in the governing documents such authority can be found?
9. Apart from General Convention, is there any body or office within the Episcopal Church with authority to enact legislation affecting all of its dioceses? And, if so, what is that body or office and where is its authority found in the governing documents?
10. When and how was the term “unqualified accession” added to Article V of the Episcopal Church Constitution, and what is the legal basis and evidence for concluding that the amendment applied to any diocese other than a “new Diocese” admitted after the effective date of that amendment to Article V [in 1982]?
11. Whether the Dennis Canon (Can. I.7.4) applies to the property of a diocese and, if so, the textual analysis, legal basis and evidence supporting the conclusion.
12. Whether this court’s enforcement of the unilateral denominational trust rule embodied by the Dennis Canon violates the separation of powers, and results in an unconstitutional entanglement with religion, by allowing a church body to dictate to the courts, contrary to the rules prescribed by California’s legislature (e.g., Probate Code sections 15200 et seq.), the elements necessary to create a trust binding on California residents?

The second part of the Request contains the Anglican parties' objections to misstatements and errors in theproposed tentative decision. You may read it at the link; the objections speak for themselves.

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