THE RIGHT REVEREND CHARLES G. VONROSENBERG, individually and in his capacity as Provisional Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Plaintiff - Appellant,
THE RIGHT REVEREND MARK J. LAWRENCE; JOHN DOES, 1-10, being fictitious defendants whose names presently are unknown to Plaintiff and will be added by amendment when ascertained, Defendants-Appellees.
Argued: December 9, 2016
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Charleston. C. Weston Houck, Senior
District Judge. (2:13-cv-00587-CWH)
S. Tisdale, Jr., HELLMAN YATES & TISDALE, Charleston,
South Carolina, for Appellant.
Henrietta U. Golding, MCNAIR LAW FIRM, Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina, for Appellee.
S. Smith, HELLMAN YATES & TISDALE, Charleston, South
Carolina, for Appellant.
Alan Runyan, Andrew S. Platte, SPEIGHTS & RUNYAN,
Beaufort, South Carolina; Charles H. Williams, WILLIAMS &
WILLIAMS, Orangeburg, South Carolina; David Cox, BARNWELL
WHALEY PATTERSON & HELMS, Charleston, South Carolina, for
GREGORY, Chief Judge, MOTZ, Circuit Judge, and Richard D.
BENNETT, United States District Judge for the District of
Maryland, sitting by designation.
GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:
dispute between two clergymen - each claiming to be the
Bishop of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of
South Carolina - comes to us a second time. Bishop Charles G.
vonRosenberg initiated this action, seeking declaratory and
injunctive relief. He alleges that Bishop Mark J. Lawrence
has violated the Lanham Act by falsely advertising himself to
be the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. At Bishop
Lawrence's request, the district court abstained in favor
of related state court proceedings, applying Brillhart v.
Excess Insurance Co. of America, 316 U.S. 491 (1942),
and Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277 (1995).
On appeal, we vacated that order, concluding that
Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United
States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), not Brillhart and
Wilton, governs abstention decisions in actions
where the plaintiff seeks both declaratory and nondeclaratory
relief. See vonRosenberg v. Lawrence
(vonRosenberg I), 781 F.3d 731 (4th Cir. 2015). On
remand, the district court has again abstained, staying the
action pending the conclusion of the state proceedings. For
the reasons that follow, we must again vacate and remand for
discussed in our earlier opinion, Bishop vonRosenberg alleges
that The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States
("the Episcopal Church") removed Bishop Lawrence
from his position as the Bishop of the Diocese of South
Carolina and installed Bishop vonRosenberg in his place.
Bishop vonRosenberg asserts that, despite Bishop
Lawrence's removal, Bishop Lawrence continues to use the
service marks, names, and symbols of the Diocese and
continues to hold himself out as the Bishop of the Diocese.
For his part, Bishop Lawrence maintains that he was not
removed from office. He contends that the Diocese of South
Carolina withdrew from the Episcopal Church and now operates
independently of the national organization. Accordingly,
Bishop Lawrence argues that, although he no longer serves as
a Bishop of the Episcopal Church, he is still the Bishop of
the Diocese and thus may represent himself as such.
briefly sketch the course of the state and federal actions
that led to ...