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ST. GEORGE, SC: Reporter Praises Judge in Episcopal Lawsuit Drama

ST. GEORGE, SC: Reporter Praises Judge in Episcopal Lawsuit Drama

By Ladson F. Mills III
Special to Virtueonline
July 9, 2014


The Rev. Mills is reporting from the courtroom in St. George’s SC in the property trial of the Diocese of South Carolina versus the National Church.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein has a marvelous judicial presence. Her demeanor is upbeat cheerful and energetic allowing her to engage those within her court room in a manner which seems designed to ease tension and place them at ease. Anyone, however who misinterprets her pleasant smile for weakness will immediately discover what was said about Mikhail Gorbachov; behind the nice smile are iron teeth. Make no mistake Judge Goodstein is fully in control of this trial.

David Booth Beers, Chancellor for the presiding Bishop discovered this Wednesday when trying to reframe the issue from one of South Carolina Corporate Law to one of Ecclesiastical and Doctrinal beliefs. His long explanation to the judge was revelatory that to lose this ruling would be a serious setback to the National Church’s case. In spite of his continued protestations her response was clear; the case will be argued as the law requires. Beer’s protégé and rumored successor Mary Kostel learned that opening day jitters are no excuse for not following the judge’s direction and for what also appeared to be back talk. The deliberate judicial pause provided just enough non verbal feedback to clear any misconception about gracing “Her Honor” with unsolicited advice.

In spite of some well written articles attempting to heightened the excitement and even with a significant ruling against David Beers the trial seems to be noted for its tediousness. My legal friends assure me this is required in order to lay the proper foundation for the case but I am quick to remind them this is much easier to believe when you are charging by the hour. As the individual parishes included in the suit each have their lawyers currently presenting evidence perhaps we should be grateful they are not charging by the word.

If the court had a suggestion box I would offer some observations to our champions of jurisprudence in the hopes of making this process less cumbersome. Switch the hard benches provided for the spectators with the comfortable chairs for the lawyers and their support staff. Allow the regular folk to bring in electronic devices and have the lawyers sit still and pay attention. Let the pleasant bailiffs provide the refreshing pitchers of water to those attending so they do not have to endure until a break. It would serve as a subtle reminder that the tax payers are not guest in the courtroom but “Founders of the Feast” whose tax dollars make it possible. It would further remind the legal teams financial funding is derived from the stewardship of the majority of those in attendance. Just because justice is blind does not mean it should be miserable for the regular folk.

In truth each side has first rate lawyers who have done their jobs professionally thus far. I may be showing a home town bias but I believe the South Carolina native lawyers from both sides have been more effective, but since this is home turf perhaps that is to be expected. A trial such as this is an ugly, cumbersome, expensive, frustrating and a tedious process but it is the process that has been chosen and the results will be felt throughout the nation and maybe the world as well. In spite of what some have been suggesting I have no idea how Judge Goodstein will rule. Perhaps the criticism directed toward her by supporters of the National Episcopal Church is not so much about her prejudice but the lack thereof and it makes them nervous.

Maybe that is why I have been so impressed with Diane Goodstein. She strikes me as one judge that if you don’t win the case, you don’t win the verdict.

How refreshing.

Stay tuned.

Ladson F. Mills III is a priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He is retired and loves with his wife in South Carolina. He currently serves as Scholar in Residence at Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island. He is a regular contributor to Virtueoneline.

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