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.