Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Diocese of San Joaquin: It's not a done deal -- Court arguments made

By Mary Ann Mueller
VirtueOnline Special Correspondent

FRESNO, CA--- Time is ticking away, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second until the courtroom showdown starts today (May 5). The attorneys are closeted, double and triple checking their notes, references and arguments. The interested parties are in prayer, barnstorming the gates of heaven and trusting the Lord to make His will manifest and followed. The media is observing with baited breath to see what happens. Everyone is on pins and needles, watching and waiting for the courtroom drama to play itself out.

A hint as to the result of that drama may have been released Monday (May 4) by the California Superior Court - Fresno County -- when a tentative ruling basically struck down all of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin's arguments. Basically, the tentative ruling says that both the defendant (Bishop John-David Schofield of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin) and the plaintiff (the TEC Diocese San Joaquin represented by Bishop Jerry Lamb) see eye to eye and agree on the facts of the case. A tentative ruling will not necessarily be chiseled into stone by the judge this afternoon.

The Honorable Adolfo M. Corona signed the tentative ruling on May 4, scheduling a hearing for the next day in his Department 97A courtroom.

So far, the judge in the case has supported all of the arguments presented by TEC and its battery of lawyers. His tentative ruling says that Bishop Lamb is the legitimate church authority for the Diocese of San Joaquin. That determination was tentatively made because the judge believes that TEC is a hierarchical body and therefore, the ecclesial authority comes from the top down with the top being TEC headquarters in New York.

"A hierarchical church is one in which individual churches are organized as a body with other churches having similar faith and doctrine, and with a common ruling convocation or ecclesiastical head vested with ultimate ecclesiastical authority over the individual congregations and members of the entire organized church," Judge Corona writes in his tentative ruling. "In a hierarchical church, an individual local congregation that affiliates with the national church body becomes a member of a much larger and more important religious organization, under its government and control, and bound by its orders and judgments."

However there is no agreement to the presumed facts of the case, as the judge seems to see them, so the litigants will argue their separate positions before Judge Corona their separate positions. The attorneys for the defendants, lead by Russell G. Van Rosenboom of Wild, Carter and Tipton, a Fresno law firm, intend on demonstrating that the judge is mistaken in his tentative judgment. Van Rosenboom is also chancellor for the Diocese of San Joaquin.

"It's not a done deal," The Rev. Canon Bill Gandenberger told VOL this morning. "Whichever way the judge rules, the other side is going to appeal."

"The 'Tentative Ruling' in the San Joaquin case is nothing more than that, 'tentative'," explained Texas attorney William Fisher who has been keeping an eye on the various TEC lawsuits around the country. "This ruling is on a Motion to Adjudicate, or, as is commonly known a Motion for Summary Judgment. Such a motion is often made by one of the parties in a law suit when they believe there are no contested matters of fact for a jury to decide."

A summery judgment approved by a judge, and in this case Judge Corona, declares that both sides agree to the basic details of the case. If both sides agree, a summery judgment is issued.

"The purpose of a tentative ruling is to let the parties know the way the judge is inclined to analyze the arguments and the evidence that has been offered thus far by each side. In that way, the parties know what points they need to address specifically at the hearing.,." explains attorney A.S. Haley on his blog 'The Anglican Curmudgeon'. "The judge will not issue a final ruling until after he has heard the oral argument by counsel, and he can either affirm or modify his tentative ruling, or revise it completely."

The article continues here.

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