Litigation Heats Up in Several Courts
The litigation involving the Diocese, Corporation, Endowment Fund, and its parishes and missions against former leaders who left the Church is moving forward on several fronts in the past two weeks.
- On Wednesday, April 13, the Southern Cone parties filed their Notice of Direct Appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, seeking the Supreme Court’s review of Judge Chupp’s February 8, 2011 partial summary judgment in favor of the Episcopal Parties. A copy of the notice is here; a copy of the judgment being appealed is here. The transcripts, pleadings, motions and other documents (“record”) are being prepared to submit to the Supreme Court. According to Rule 57 of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Southern Cone Parties are required to file a statement of jurisdiction, to which the Episcopal Parties will file a response. The Court will then issue either a preliminary ruling of probable jurisdiction or dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
- The Southern Cone parties have announced their intention to file a motion in the 141st District Court to ask Judge Chupp to set the amount of a supersedeas bond at zero dollars ($0). Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 24 provides that while on appeal, in order for the Southern Cone Parties to stop enforcement of the February 8, 2011 judgment and to retain possession of the real and personal property that belongs to the Episcopal Parties, they must provide a bond or other security in an amount approved by the trial judge. “The trial court may make any order necessary to adequately protect the judgment creditor against loss or damage that the appeal might cause.” For the February 8, 2011 judgment for recovery of property, the rule provides that the amount of the security must be at least the value of the rental value of the real property and the value of the personal property at issue for the time the case is on appeal. The Episcopal Parties will ask the court to set the amount that adequately protects the property awarded to them by Judge Chupp’s February 8, 2011 judgment and to enter additional orders to keep the Southern Cone Parties from further dissipation and transfers of the Episcopal assets to avoid satisfaction of the judgment. The Southern Cone motion has not yet been filed and the hearing has not been set.
- On April 18, 2011 the Fort Worth Court of Appeals issued an order lifting the abatement of the Episcopal Parties’ appeal from the Hood County case in the 355th District Court, in which Judge Ralph H. Walton, Jr. severed out and dismissed the diocesan claims of the Episcopal Corporation and Diocese from the competing St. Andrew’s parish claims regarding which congregation, the continuing Episcopal St. Andrew’s or the Southern Cone St. Andrew’s, is the beneficiary named in the Cynthia Brants Trust. The Episcopal Parties’ brief is due May 18. A copy of the order is here.
- On April 7, 2011 the Episcopal Parties also filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas a Notice of Conclusive Determination by State Court. This trademark case under the federal Lanham Act seeks to stop former Bishop Jack Iker from using the name “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” for his new church. Judge Terry Means had abated the case until the identity issue had been determined in the 141st District Court in Tarrant County and ordered the parties to notify him when that determination had been made. Judge Chupp’s February 8, 2011 partial summary judgment in favor of the Episcopal Parties determined that the Episcopal Parties, not the former diocesan leaders who left the Church, were entitled to use and control the property of the Diocese, which would include its name.On April 20, 2001, Judge Means issued an order requiring Bishop Iker to show cause on or before May 2, 2011, why the stay should not be lifted in the federal case. If the stay is lifted, the federal court will proceed to consider the Episcopal Parties’ motion for partial summary judgment, which had been filed on December 13, 2010, before the abatement was ordered. A brief in support is here.