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Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg v. The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

December 18, 2019

The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence, et al., Defendants. The Episcopal Church, Plaintiff in Intervention

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce the Injunction (Dkt. No. 686) and Defendants' Motion to Stay Pending Appeal (Dkt. No. 690). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs Motion to Enforce is granted in part and denied in part and Defendants' Motion to Stay is denied.

         I. Background

         This case arises out of a schism in 2012 in the Historic Diocese, originally known as the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of South Carolina," in which certain members and parishes sought to dissociate from The Episcopal Church, a nationwide hierarchical church. The parties have litigated property issues related to the schism in the state courts of South Carolina, culminating in a 2017 decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court holding that The Episcopal Church owned most of the property in dispute and found that twenty-eight of the Disassociated Parishes held real and personal property in trust for TEC. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, 421 S.C. 211, 265, 806 S.E.2d 82, 111 (2017). Given the long history of this case and the multiple Parties, it is important at the outset to identify the principal Parties:

1) Plaintiff The Episcopal Church (hereafter "TEC") is the national church and an Intervenor Plaintiff in this action;
2) The Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of South Carolina (hereafter the "Historic Diocese"), which was formed as early as 1785 and was long affiliated with TEC;
3) Plaintiff The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (hereafter "TECSC"), which was headed initially by Plaintiff Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg and subsequently by Plaintiff Provisional Bishop Gladstone B. Adams, III and is affiliated with TEC;
4) Defendant Disassociated Diocese, [1] headed by Defendant Right Reverend Mark Lawrence and was formed following the schism in 2012 to disassociate from TEC.
5) The Defendant parishes associated with the Disassociated Diocese (hereafter "Disassociated Parishes").

         While the state courts addressed property issues, in this action the Parties raised issues surrounding the use of certain trademarks in contest between TEC and its affiliates and the Disassociated Diocese and its affiliates. (Dkt. Nos. 146, 150.)

         Ultimately, this Court, on September 19, 2019, granted summary judgment in favor of TEC and TECSC, finding that TECSC is the lawful successor of the Historic Diocese, granting summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising and issuing an injunction prohibiting the Disassociated Diocese or the Disassociated Parishes from using any of the following marks or any mark that is confusingly similar:

• The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States;
• The Episcopal Church;
• The Episcopal Church Welcomes You;
• La Iglesia Episcopal, and;
• The Episcopal Shield.[2]
• Diocese of South Carolina;
• The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina;
• The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina;
• The Diocesan Seal.[3]

(hereafter, "enjoined marks") (Dkt. Nos. 667; 668.)

         Plaintiffs TEC and TECSC now move to enforce this injunction. (Dkt. No. 686.) Specifically, while TEC and TECSC acknowledge that the Disassociated Diocese and Parishes have made "limited" changes to their websites and advertising materials, Plaintiffs allege that a variety of Defendants' actions violate the injunction, including by: 1) stating that the Disassociated Diocese was "founded in 1785"; 2) stating that Defendant Bishop Lawrence is the Disassociated Diocese's "14th Bishop" or "XIV Bishop"; 3) stating that the Disassociated Diocese will hold its "229th Diocesan Convention"; 4) including the Journals of prior Diocesan Conventions on their websites; 5) stating that the Disassociated Diocese is the publisher of "Jubilate Deo" and posting prior issues of Jubilate Deo on their website; 6) stating that Camp St. Christopher is an institution of the Disassociated Diocese; 7) redirecting the Historic Diocese's website domains to Disassociated Diocese's websites; and, finally 8) adopting "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" as their new name. (Id.) Defendants oppose this motion, alleging that they complied with the injunction by changing their name to "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and the uses identified by Plaintiffs do not violate the injunction.[4] (Dkt. No. 688.) Plaintiffs filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 689.) Additionally, Defendants have moved to stay this Court's Order and Injunction pending appeal, which Plaintiffs oppose. (Dkt. Nos. 690, 691, 692.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Enforce (Dkt. No. 686)

         A court has continuing jurisdiction over its permanent injunction regardless of a pending appeal. Hudson v. Pittsylvania Cty., Va., 774 F.3d 231, 234 (4th Cir. 2014). While Plaintiffs style their motion a petition to enforce the injunction, a court enforces its injunctions through "a finding of contempt, [which] springs from the court's inherent equitable powers." Innovation Ventures, LLC v. N2G Distrib., Inc., 763 F.3d 524, 544 (6th Cir. 2014) citing Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S. 395, 398, 66 S.Ct. 1086 (1946). To make out a claim for civil contempt, the movant must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, four elements:

(1) the existence of a valid decree of which the alleged contemnor had actual or constructive knowledge; (2) that the decree was in the movant's "favor"; (3) that the alleged contemnor by its conduct violated the terms of the decree, and had knowledge (at least constructive knowledge) of such violations; and (4) that the movant suffered harm as a result.

Rainbow Sck, Inc. v. Rainbow Early Educ. Holding LLC, 887 F.3d 610, 617 (4th Cir. 2018) (citations omitted). Importantly, intent is irrelevant to a finding of civil contempt. See McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co.,336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 499 (1949) ("Since the purpose is remedial, it matters not with what intent the defendant did the prohibited act."). However, the order allegedly violated must be one that had set forth '"in specific detail an unequivocal command' which a party ...


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