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The Code of Judicial Conduct still requires recusal.

 
COLUMBIA, S.C. (October 13, 2017) – Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) filed our Response, at the Court’s request, to the Amici brief submitted on behalf of Justice Kaye Hearn regarding her actions on the South Carolina Supreme Court in its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  Her opinion there provided the deciding vote to deprive at least 29 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years. Similar to the previous filings on the issue of Justice Hearn’s recusal, 26 attorneys signed this response as well.

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:  

“An essential issue before the State Supreme Court in this matter is whether the Judicial Code of Conduct means what it says. If it does, Justice Hearn should and must be recused from any further participation in this case. At a minimum, she should have no part in the Court’s decision whether to rehear this case. Further, if the Court is to defend the due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina, we likewise believe it should vacate her existing opinion and grant a fresh hearing before a new bench of Justices that is untainted by her failure to recuse herself.”

Quotes from today’s filed Response:

+   Regarding Justice Hearn’s interest in the outcome, the amici brief “simply disregards the evidence provided with the Motion to Recuse.” [p. 4]

+   The Canons of the State Code of Judicial Conduct places “the determination regarding recusal and duty to disclose and recuse on the judge, not the parties.” [p. 8]

+   There are no grounds for Justices Hearn’s continued participation in this case. The amici brief itself makes “no argument that prospective recusal is unavailable and inappropriate in these circumstance.” [p. 10]

Conclusion: “Respectfully, Justice Hearn should recuse herself from hearing the Petition for Rehearing and the Court should vacate her opinion and appoint a Justice to hear the Petition. Failing that, the Court should vacate all of the opinions and order rehearing.” [p. 12]

COLUMBIA, S.C. (October 4, 2017) – Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) announced the schedule for mediation of the ongoing litigation with The Episcopal Church (TEC).
 
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:  

“In a pre-mediation meeting today with Judge Joseph Anderson, it was determined that mediation would be conducted November 6-8 in Columbia, South Carolina.  Both State and Federal cases will be addressed by the mediation.  Confidentiality will be expected from all parties concerning these discussions.”

COLUMBIA, S.C. (September 25, 2017) – Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) filed our Replies, to the Return by The Episcopal Church (TEC) to our motions for recusal and rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court, regarding its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:   

“Today’s filings by the Diocese of South Carolina address the property law issues at the heart of this case. TEC failed to establish a trust interest in property, of any sort, that can be recognized under 300 years of existing South Carolina legal precedent.  And to claim such an interest now is to grant TEC favored status against the Diocese and its parishes, establishing one church body over another. This is inconsistent with opinions of the United States Supreme Court that truly “neutral” principles of state law must be applied as they would be in any other case.

Further, the timeliness of our request for recusal is not an issue before an appellate court.    The public confidence in and the credibility of the Court is!  The most effective way to assure both is the recusal of Justice Hearn and the vacating of her opinion.  A ruling free from conflict of interest is not a right that can be waived.”





The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details:

•    In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted by an 80% margin to disassociate from The Episcopal Church.  In a complicated and sharply divided ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court appeared to rule on August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church are subject to a trust interest in their property by (TEC).  

St. Philip's Church by Sam HunterThe following op-ed appeared in the Post and Courier September 16, 2017. It is reprinted with permission.

Over the last five years, an unfortunate, unseemly battle has been taking place. The historic Diocese of South Carolina and most of its parishes have been engaged in a costly legal battle with the national Episcopal Church in New York over ownership of some of the nation’s most historic properties and the right to worship as they choose. To many, this appears to be little more than a private argument; to others, it is an embarrassment to the Gospel witness.

In reality, this is a battle that should concern all people, because, at its core, it is a battle for freedom. If the Diocese of South Carolina and the churches lose, and their property is taken away, no faith-based organization in the state will be guaranteed its First Amendment right to the “free exercise of religion.” This may seem alarmist, but it is not. This is specifically a battle for religious freedom, and, by consequence, a battle for freedom in general — the dearest of all American virtues.

Religious Freedom at Risk ad with 100 signaturesOver one hundred clergy from around the state of South Carolina, and representing 10 different denominations, have come together to express their support for the Diocese and their concern for the Constitutional issues raised by our Supreme Court ruling. 

The attached statement was first published as an Op Ed in The State paper on September 17 and then published there as a full page ad on September 20.  The statement with the current list of supporters can also be found on the Palmetto Family Council website.

 

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