That left Chief Justice Toal, who despite all the tortuous arguments stuck to basic legal principles and analysis: a trust needs a settlor to be created, and the beneficiary of a trust is perfectly within his rights to quitclaim back to the settlor all of his supposed interest in the trust. (There was thus no “breach of the Dennnis Canon” when Bishop Lawrence signed individual quitclaim deeds to his parishes, on behalf of the Diocese as beneficiary of any trust interest that arguably may still have existed following the All Saints Waccamaw decision.) And South Carolina religious corporations are free to amend their governing documents — including a complete change in their charitable purpose — as long as they comply with the formalities required by South Carolina law.
To this observer, it seemed as though the Justices had not discussed the case with each other beforehand. And it also looked as though the Chief Justice had taken on the responsibility of writing an opinion in the case — since she was the one most weighed down with case files and briefs. But whether her opinion will be the majority one remains to be seen. I believe she has the confidence of Justice Beatty, who followed her before. And she may have Judge Kittredge in her camp, as well.
But both he and Justice Costa Pleicones seemed to have difficulty following the ins and outs of the arguments — thanks to the constant interjections by Justice Hearn on behalf of the Church of which she is an active member. She practically monopolized the argument with long speeches (not questions) that would have sounded more appropriate had they come from ECUSA’s attorneys. The resulting final impression of Mark Lawrence and his Diocese having had a rough time in the Court is almost entirely, in my estimation, due to the attempts by Justice Hearn to derail the case by returning South Carolina to the days of deference, as ECUSA argued in its briefs.
Whether her unprofessional and entirely partial tactics will succeed is a question that will have to await the Court’s opinion, which could be months away. I shall have much more to say about those tactics in my following post.