(Living Church) Episcopal Church Attorney in South Carolina Matter Recuses Herself

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sisters and Brothers, today I have accepted the withdrawal of Ms. Josephine Hicks from further participation in the matter before us regarding Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Ms. Hicks has withdrawn from all involvement in the Board’s investigation and/or consideration of the Bishop Lawrence matter because unanticipated circumstances have created the possibility of a conflict arising regarding fiduciary responsibilities for members of her law firm as matters develop. For reasons of professional responsibility, she is not at liberty to disclose any details concerning that possibility.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South CarolinaTEC Polity & Canons* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* South Carolina

33 Comments
Posted October 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. cssadmirer wrote:

My goodness, this feels a bit like a soap opera.

Well, so much for those saying there were no bases for concerns.

But of course this should have happened at the beginning, and it looks very bad now coming as a result of pressure from the outside.

October 14, 4:45 pm | [comment link]
2. A Senior Priest wrote:

I believe that the estimable Curmudgeon has something to do with this satisfactory development http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-would-any-disciplinary-board-choose.html
And Dorsey Henderson’s attempt to paper over the problem lacks credibility.

October 14, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
3. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

Her firm has a Charleston office, I think. It’s possible one of her partners belongs to or represents a Diocese of South Carolina Church

October 14, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
4. Branford wrote:

Her firm does have a Charleston office, and looking down the list of attorneys, let’s just say several are generational members of downtown Episcopal churches. Just a speculation, but I hope she resigned because TEC realized that it would look just too manipulative to keep her as church attorney.

October 14, 6:19 pm | [comment link]
5. Mark Baddeley wrote:

After all the concern that +Schori showed for correct following of the canons when she refused to accept South Carolina’s election of +Lawrence, is it too much to expect that she’d show a similar concern for correctly following the canons now?

I mean, these guys have written their own rules to make this as easy as possible for themselves and they still can’t get it right. On the earlier precedent one would expect +Schori to call a halt to proceedings, and require everything to start again from scratch, possibly with a whole new board.

But, you know, not holding my breath on that one.

October 14, 6:53 pm | [comment link]
6. billqs wrote:

How about calls for a dismissal of all charges?

October 14, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
7. David Keller wrote:

#6—Dorsey previously said there are no charges.  Certainly a bishop of the Episcopal church wouldn’t lie.  Of course if he wasnt lieing then why did the board need an attorney? I guess I’m just your typical lay person who doesn’t know anything and should only believe what my bishops tell me.  BTW, I just fell off of a turnip truck.

October 14, 7:26 pm | [comment link]
8. Fradgan wrote:

The Curmudgeon has earned a big slap on the back for this result. I’ll bet the emails and phones calls were flying late into the night following his latest rock-lifting.  My, how they scatter when the light in shone upon them.  What say we join in lifting a few more rocks?!!

October 14, 7:30 pm | [comment link]
9. Ian Montgomery wrote:

I see that Communion Partners has weighed in with this opinion on the whole debacle and misuse of canon and procedure to further the ends of the controlling party.  http://www.communionpartners.org/?p=258
I have not before seen such strong words or parallels from CP.

October 14, 8:00 pm | [comment link]
10. Jim the Puritan wrote:

They’ll probably now find an attorney from the Anti-Christian Liberals Union.

October 14, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
11. Katherine wrote:

Well, well, well.  Possible conflict of interest.  Imagine that.  Not that her replacement is likely to be any less biased against the accused.

October 14, 10:47 pm | [comment link]
12. trimom wrote:

Fascinating that this was released late Friday afternoon, isn’t it? I’m sure that they were trying to bury the matter as quietly as possible.

October 15, 8:24 am | [comment link]
13. NoVA Scout wrote:

No. 3 probably has it right and in proper perspective.  This is a large regional firm (200+ attorneys, offices in major cities in both Carolinas).  Once there began to be some public awareness of the inquiry letter, it probably happened that other members of the firm reported that they were serving in Diocesan or parish positions in the Diocese of South Carolina.  In those situations, the best solution is often just to pass on the representation.  There are plenty of lawyers, alas.

October 15, 8:35 am | [comment link]
14. SC blu cat lady wrote:

NoVA Scout. Correct but it does not lessen the stench coming from 815.  One wonders if lawyers in the same law firm had not become aware of her appointment would this investigation gone forward with Ms. Hicks as church attorney. Perhaps so because TEC had already approved her for the position which they should not have in the first place. Next concern: who will replace her as church attorney in this matter?

October 15, 9:48 am | [comment link]
15. c.r.seitz wrote:

For those of us very concerned about the constitutionality of the new Title IV, these missteps are exhibit A of an unexpected sort.

I was reading Mark Harris at Preludium. He of course serves on Executive Council. It has been pointed out there that, if he uses the langauage of ‘serious questions’ re: Title IV; and also speaks of a General Convention review of Title IV in 2012, why should a Diocese sign on before then? In some ways, his comment vindicates the D of SC precisely for holding off (even if his reasoning is at a different level of concern). It also makes the decision of CFL to ‘memorialize’ its concerns (if that is the right language) rather prophetic.

I’d think in the light of his public concerns one could even say Title IV needs to go into abeyance for the time being. This has been a big banana peel to slip so egregiously on.

I confess that Bishop Henderson’s efforts to calm things down appear now, how shall one say? One searches for the right word. His own former Executive Council President has written a sharp riposte in the local paper, defending +Mark Lawrence. Columbia SC must feel 100 yards wide.

October 15, 9:59 am | [comment link]
16. FrCarl wrote:

Sorry, but this turn of events is nothing more than good legal tactics.  You simply do not want your attorney to be an issue as things heat up.  This mess will continue.  DSC is a rebuke to TEC which will not go unaddressed.  Everyone will be forced to choose sides and many characters will be displayed.

October 15, 11:10 am | [comment link]
17. Cennydd13 wrote:

Ah, yes!  Bishop Lawrence is guilty until he’s proved innocent, according to Schori & Company.  Off with his head!  Sadly, there’s no justice in TEC’s legal system, is there? The only “justice” is that which is perceived by the PB (Judge, jury, and executioner).  All else is for naught.

October 15, 11:13 am | [comment link]
18. c.r.seitz wrote:

By the way, unless I am mistaken, the term ‘recusing’ is inappropriate here. It refers to someone properly assigned to a case, with jurisdiction, themselves declaring a conflict. We don’t have these factors here.

October 15, 1:58 pm | [comment link]
19. SC blu cat lady wrote:

#17 Agreed Cennydd, Sad- very sad that guilty until proven innocent has become the legal standard in TEc.

October 15, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
20. NoVA Scout wrote:

No. 14, what you so moderately described as “stench” was a scent that you discerned quite independently of the quotidian event of law firms finding that they have internal conflicts and that discretion dictates these be avoided (sometimes these rise to a level where ethical canons require the firm or the lawyer to forego the representation - oftentimes it just makes good sense to avoid the problem because it causes internal discomfort). 

re the “guilty until proven innocent” meme (see, e.g., comments 17 and 19), where does that come from?  From what I have seen, the only document in the process is the inquiry letter from Ms. Hicks.  Is there something about the Title IV process that places a presumption of wrong-doing on the recipients of an inquiry letter?  Does the ultimate decision and the conduct of the process rest solely with one person (the Presiding Bishop, as indicated in Comment 17)?

October 16, 10:55 am | [comment link]
21. Cennydd13 wrote:

20.  NoVAScout, they’ve already got Bishop Lawrence hung, dried, and quartered.  That’s the analogy I used for my comment.  Bp Schori’s determined to get rid of Bishop Lawrence, one way or another, since he refuses to follow the party line;  we all know that, and this is just one more example of “justice” TEC-style.  She used the same tactic with ++Duncan, +Schofield, and +Iker…..and look where it got her.

October 16, 11:14 am | [comment link]
22. Cennydd13 wrote:

As for the letter:  In my eyes, and I’m quite sure those of others, it amounts to an indictment.  The tone of the letter infers guilt on the part of Bishop Lawrence.  Trial and conviction by opinion.

October 16, 11:21 am | [comment link]
23. NoVA Scout wrote:

Cennydd13:  I guess my question was more a procedural one.  What are the mechanisms that make the PB the “judge, jury, executioner.”?  Your answer just seems to vent some personal disdain you hold for the Presiding Bishop.  I think in the case of Bishops Duncan, Schofield, Iker, there was no question that they had not only left the Church, but also asserted claims to property.  Certainly they themselves had already made a decision to separate from The Episcopal Church.  I have been advised on this site that the situation is quite different in South Carolina, where Bishop Lawrence wishes to remain in the Church and has not left or asserted claims on property.

October 16, 1:56 pm | [comment link]
24. Milton Finch wrote:

23,
The new title IV that convention passed and was made null and void by SC’s convention is the mechanism.  For a better understanding, scoot over to the Anglican Curmudgeon and look up the subject of changes that give the PB all of those powers of “judge, jury and executioner.”

October 16, 3:13 pm | [comment link]
25. Cennydd13 wrote:

NoVA Scout, while it’s true that he wishes to remain in TEC, he may be driven out.  If he IS deposed, what choice does he have except to leave?  And if he does leave, where do you think he should go?  I wouldn’t stay where I wasn’t wanted because of my beliefs.  Would you?

October 16, 5:37 pm | [comment link]
26. c.r.seitz wrote:

One reading of the situation is that the Diocese of SC returns to a status quo ante: it is an ‘original diocese’ that now no longer associates. The war isn’t the Civil War, but a different species. It is an autonomous diocese. Perhaps it would associate with other Provinces of the Communion. But we shall see. Perhaps the Disc Committee will dismiss the charges. If not, it’s hard to see what property inroads TEC could make. So you have an autonomous Diocese. Sui generis.
And if TEC insists on SCLM plans for TEC’s future, other dioceses will find themselves in a similar gambit. As Haley has said, in such a scenario, staying creates a more difficult problem than leaving, for it presses for the polity clarity that has yet to find wider resolution or consensus.

October 16, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
27. Ralph wrote:

Cennydd13, to the limited extent that I understand anything going here, I think that one of the constitutional questions being asked is whether the PB can inhibit or depose +Mark. Could he and the SC simply ignore such an order? If they did, what recourse would 815 have in SC?

Obviously, they could deny SC a seat at General Convention, and the HOB could deny +Mark a seat at their meetings.

In a parish fight, things get better when the dissenters finally up and leave for another parish. As noted above, I don’t think that +Mark or the other diocesan leadership have any intention of leaving TEC, and I’m not sure that they can be forced to.

October 16, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
28. Cennydd13 wrote:

Obviously, according to PB Schori, she can do anything she wants.  She interprets TEC’s constitution, her Chancellor and her bishops go along with it, and so there it is.  Done, sealed, and delivered.

October 17, 2:12 am | [comment link]
29. c.r.seitz wrote:

The point of the remarks in #27 is to ask whether this is indeed so. That is what this struggle is about. The Diocese of SC is not leaving, and this could put it in a place where it is impossible for TEC to do anything. It can ‘remove the diocese from its books’ (if that is what transpires) but beyond that, what can it do? That is what is being tested.

October 17, 8:45 am | [comment link]
30. Ralph wrote:

And would they ‘remove the diocese from its books’? Even in the War of Northern Aggression, when several dioceses left General Convention, they didn’t do that.

To remove a founding diocese (or any diocese, for that matter) from its books, would be yet another historical event in the PB’s reign of terror.

October 17, 9:36 am | [comment link]
31. c.r.seitz wrote:

Ralph, good question. However I think the answer must be Yes. This shows that we are in a very different, and more heated, context. Once one pulls the litigation lever, it is probably deemed crucial that every battle be won. But here we come full circle precisely because SC could get scrubbed from the books but be incorrigible when it comes to property and mission.
The generosity of the Civil War era was borne of a sense of common cause in the Gospel, one conjectures. The War was a tragedy. It called forth difficult responses.
We do not have a sense of common cause in the Gospel. And even the idea of diversity is showing it cannot wear well. If the SCLM moves TEC into its new revisionist phase complete with liturgical (constitutional) identity, how can said identity be denied or deprived?

October 17, 9:45 am | [comment link]
32. Milton Finch wrote:

The Living Church states that TEC now has a new attorney on the case.

October 17, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
33. BigTex AC wrote:

RE:  #9….A strongly worded letter?  You don’t say?  Now this is the very bold leadership we have come to expect from the Communion Partners.

BigTex AC

October 17, 4:47 pm | [comment link]
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