California Supreme Court To Review Episcopal Church Property Cases

Thanks to Stand Firm; you can see the docket sheet right here.

One small point from my own lawyerly perspective – normally, an appellee (read Episcopal Church) feels pretty comfortable going into an appeal. Most of the time, the trial judge’s ruling is affirmed on appeal. However, the California Supreme Court, just like most state Supremes and the U.S. Supreme Court, is a writ court. That means they only hear cases under their supervisory jurisdiction if they want to hear them. The vast majority of writ applications are refused. As a lawyer, I’ve had this experience along with the Federal Fifth Circuit granting oral argument (a rarity similar to a writ grant from the Supreme Court) on what I thought was a simple matter where I was the appellee. Those are the experiences when the appellee’s lawyer gets a pit in his stomach and starts thinking, “uh oh.”

Now, no one should get their hopes up. But, let’s just say the usual deference by a higher court to a lower court ruling just doesn’t apply in the situation of review by a Supreme Court, where the writ is granted. I’d put a 50% chance (maybe higher) on the California Supremes reversing the appellate court decision and reinstating the trial court’s decision dismissing the action by the Diocese and the Episcopal Church. The fun part about this is that it paves the way for more parishes to leave, and perhaps the Diocese of San Joaquin. Oh, and then this case gets cited as a California Supreme Court case in every court in the country where the Episcopal Church tries to litigate.

If I were David Booth Beers, I’d be worried. A victory for St. James Newport Beach would hopefully bring TEC to its senses and to stop the legal war and try to resolve things amicably. Prayers need to continue along these lines.

5 Responses to “California Supreme Court To Review Episcopal Church Property Cases”


  1. 1 Jeff in CA September 12, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Well said, Brad. Another thing to keep in mind with this particular case, IMHO, is that the appellate decision not only heightened the conflicts that already existed among the appellate districts within California (about how to apply the neutral principles standard), but created a whole new and much more serious divide (over whether courts in California should even be applying neutral principles at all).

    That’s my guess as to why all seven justices voted to grant review…it may have a lot more to do with the split than their particular opinion of the appellate court ruling, though the latter is certainly a possibility. Either way, it’s going to be a big deal, because the California Supreme Court hasn’t spoken on the issue for about forty years.

  2. 2 pendennis88 September 13, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    It is also interesting that the California judiciary, while probably very sympathetic to the political views of the national Episcopal church in general, have also been among the leaders in lowering the Constitutional deference to any church in order to avoid entanglement. A secularist simply has a hard time understanding why any church should get a pass on obeying laws that other persons must obey.

  3. 3 April August 1, 2013 at 12:41 am

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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