The following is a statement from the office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori concerning the Superior Court ruling in Fresno County, California.
The Presiding Bishop's Office announced that on July 21, 2009, the Superior Court of Fresno County, California issued an order resolving most of the legal issues in litigation involving the identity and property of the Diocese of San Joaquin. The court ruled in favor of the Church and the Diocese on all issues that had been presented to it. In its opinion, the court sustained the position of the Church and the Diocese that Bishop Jerry Lamb is the Bishop of the Diocese and the officeholder in the Diocesan corporations, and that former Bishop John-David Schofield is no longer the Bishop and has no claim to any of the corporate offices.
In reaching this conclusion, the court found that there is no question that The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church, of which the Diocese is an integral part. It also held that The Episcopal Church's rules did not permit the Diocese to revoke its accession to the Church's Constitution and canons or to join a different denomination. Finally, the Court ruled that the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin is "not a new organization" created after former Bishop Schofield attempted to remove the Diocese from the Church, but that the Diocese "is the older organization from which (Schofield and the other) defendants removed themselves."
The motion for summary adjudication was briefed and argued for the Church by Goodwin Procter, the law firm of the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, with Heather Anderson and Adam Chud taking the lead in assisting the Diocese and its Chancellor and counsel, Michael Glass.
The Superior Court's decision is the first involving a dispute over the property of a diocese of The Episcopal Church, and is expected to be helpful in cases involving other dioceses.