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vonRosenberg v. Lawrence

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 31, 2015

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,
v.
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 January 28, 2015

Amended April 17, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. (2:13-cv-00587-CWH). C. Weston Houck, Senior District Judge.

ARGUED:

Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr., HELLMAN YATES & TISDALE, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellant.

Charles Alan Runyan, SPEIGHTS & RUNYAN, Beaufort, South Carolina, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

 Jason S. Smith, HELLMAN YATES & TISDALE, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellant.

Andrew S. Platte, SPEIGHTS & RUNYAN, Beaufort, South Carolina; Henrietta U. Golding, MCNAIR LAW FIRM, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Charles H. Williams, WILLIAMS & WILLIAMS, Orangeburg, South Carolina; David Cox, WOMBLE, CARLYLE, SANDRIDGE & RICE, LLP, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellee The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence.

Before MOTZ, GREGORY, and WYNN, Circuit Judges. Judge Motz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Gregory and Judge Wynn joined.

OPINION

Page 732

DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge

This appeal arises from a dispute between two clergymen. Each believes himself to be the proper leader of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina. Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg brought this action against Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, alleging two Lanham Act violations and seeking declaratory and nondeclaratory relief. In response, Bishop Lawrence asked the district court to abstain in favor of pending related state court proceedings. Relying on the abstention doctrine articulated in Brillhart v. Excess Insurance Co. of America,316 U.S. 491, 62 S.Ct. 1173, 86 L.Ed. 1620 (1942) and Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 115 S.Ct. 2137, 132 L.Ed.2d 214 (1995), which affords a federal court broad discretion to stay declaratory judgment actions, the district court dismissed the action. Because we conclude that Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 96 ...


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