Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In Which We Learn Not To Rely On Annotations

PresbyPolity wonks will be interested in this post at A Classical Presbyterian which contains the decision of the General Assembly's PJC in a case (Stewart v. Mission Presbytery) challenging the advancement of an openly lesbian inquirer to candidate status. The inquirer withdrew from the process to seek ordination in another denomination during the appeals.
Although the case was declared moot for that reason, the GAPJC pointed out in its decision that the case cited by the presbytery as a precedent in its defense was based on the summary in the Annotated Book of Order which misstated the case, and thereby mislead the Committee on Ministry, the presbytery and the synod to the extent that each body relied on that annotation in this case. The cited case, Sheldon v. Presbytery of West New Jersey, in fact appears to support the plaintiff in the Stewart case rather than the defendant.

Toby posts the entire decision, so you can read it and interpret it for yourself. It's a reminder that the summaries in the Annotated Book of Order are not authoritative, and that the case that is cited in the annotations should always be read in full before relying on it. That's something we were taught early on in law school.


Gannet Girl said...

Like in the first five minutes, when someone said, "You know what a-s-s-u-m-e means, right?"

Presbyterian Gal said...

I was a paralegal in another lifetime and learned how to "parse" cases and remove the "dicta" (which had a more colorful term in my office, depending on the judge).

Glad that there are still some out there willing to go the distance.

will spotts said...

Whatever one may think about various PJC's, I'm actually impressed this one did the work of figuring out the difference.

At the same time, I'm aware that this doesn't say much for the presbytery and synod bodies - and their commitment to fulfill their responsibilities.