Response to Bishop Iker’s letter to All Saints’

Response to Bishop Iker’s letter to All Saints’

Tom Leatherbury, attorney for the Episcopal Parties and a lifelong Episcopalian, has responded to David Weaver, attorney for the breakaway group, regarding former Bishop Jack Iker’s March 6, 2015, letter to All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, demanding that All Saints’ submit to a so-called Canon 32 procedure. Leatherbury’s letter also lays out a “procedural roadmap” for most efficiently resolving the case for appeal. The full text of the letter is below.

Taking note of the letter, the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., said, “I remain very confident that we will ultimately prevail. This litigation is important to protect the legacy of generations of Episcopalians for future generations of Episcopalians. As these mediation and appeals processes go forward, our job, as always, is to help people in need, to glorify God, and to live lives worthy of the calling of God.”

Text of the Leatherbury letter

March 9, 2015

R. David Weaver, Esq.
The Weaver Law Firm, P.C.
1521 N. Cooper Street, Suite 710 Arlington, Texas 76011

Re: The Episcopal  Church, et al. v. Franklin Salazar, et al., Cause No . 141-252083-11 in the  141st District  Court of Tarrant County, Texas

Dear Mr. Weaver:

I write in response to your e-mail of March 6, 2015, and Defendant Jack Leo  Iker’s letter to All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Fort Worth) (“All Saints”)  of  the  same  date.  In addition, we propose below a procedural roadmap to resolve  the  case  for  appeal  in  an efficient  and cost-effective manner.

At the summary-judgment hearing, the Court suggested that the parties mediate the case as to All Saints, and we believe the parties agreed to do so. Plaintiffs contacted Defendants and suggested a mediator. We were informed that you tentatively agreed to that mediator and even suggested that the parties expand the scope of mediation to include several other parishes that have chosen to remain in The Episcopal Church. Mediation as to All Saints-which  the  Court  had  urged-seemed imminent.

Your letter of March 6, however, suggests that Defendants are declining to mediate . Instead, Defendants are now demanding that All Saints submit to  Defendants ‘  so-called Canon 32 procedure , in which Defendant Iker suggests he would serve  not  only  as  an interested party but as judge and jury of the contested issues before  the  Court.  This  is obviously  not the mediation  before  a neutral  mediator  agreed to at the hearing.

Defendants ‘ Canon 32 has no application here for several reasons, including the following. Defendant Iker already admitted in sworn testimony  that  All  Saints  remains  a parish of The Episcopal Church and is  not  a  part  of  his  newly-formed  “ACNA” denomination. Defendants ‘ ACNA “Canon 32” has no relevance or application to an Episcopal parish. Second, Defendant Iker has no authority  to  call  a  meeting  on  property whose deed reads, as All Saints’ does, “in trust for the use and benefit of the Protestant Episcopal Church.” Third, the Court specifically did not grant summary judgment as to the claims relating to All Saints; Defendants have no basis to claim that anything in the summary-judgment order justifies their unilateral conduct here. And fourth, Defendant Iker lacks authority to force this process on Plaintiffs even under his own ACNA canon. That canon provides  that  “the  Rector  and a majority  of the members  of the  [parish’s] Vestry ” may initiate discussion by “petition[ing] the Bishop” and “provid[ing] a reasonable opportunity” for the Bishop to visit the parish. All Saints’ Rector and  a majority  of the  members  of  its vestry have not petitioned  Defendant  Iker to  serve as mediator  of his own dispute,  and  they do not do so now. For these and numerous other reasons, Canon 32 has no application here. There will be no meeting called by Defendant  Iker  at All  Saints on March  26, 2015,  and we ask that you notify  those to whom Defendant  Iker’ s letter was  sent.

Plaintiffs remain ready and willing to conduct an actual mediation before a neutral mediator, as Defendants previously agreed to do. Hopefully, Defendants  will return to  their prior  agreement and mediation  can commence in short order, as the Court  urged.

In addition to following the Court’s urging to mediate, we would like to propose the following steps to bring the case to resolution in the trial court as efficiently  and  cost­ effectively as possible so that the parties may pursue an  appeal,  unless  the  Court  should decide to follow its prior  procedure  and stay the remaining  claims during an  appeal:

  • Address the remaining claims in Cause No. 141-252083-11 through further summary judgment proceedings, as Mr. Sharpe proposed. Please let us know whether you need additional discovery on these claims.  We  are  currently reviewing the  summary-judgment  record  to  determine  whether  we  need discovery, and we should be able to confer with you on that issue in the next few days.
  • Lift the stay in Cause No. 141-237150-09 and resolve the claim against Jude Funding along with the remaining claims in the live case. Please let us know whether you are willing to agree to a lifting of the stay  for  this  purpose.  We believe that taking up all claims in both cases on appeal is the most efficient way forward, and the claim against Jude Funding can be handled similarly to the remaining ’11 claims.
  • If mediation regarding All Saints is unsuccessful, conduct additional discovery, if needed. Please let us know whether you still anticipate needing additional discovery regarding All Saints as you stated in your letter dated February 27, 2015, which was filed March 2, 2015. We may also need discovery in that event.
  • Continue the trial setting, which is currently set for the week of March 23, 2015. In order to mediate the claims relating to All Saints, in light of an anticipated agreement to file summary-judgment motions with respect to the remaining claims, and in light of the existing conflicts below, please let us know whether you would agree, in the event mediation is not successful, to a few months ‘ continuance of the trial of the remaining claims and the claims relating to All Saints. I am due in the Texas Supreme Court on March 25, 2015 , to second­ chair a young lawyer ‘s first argument at that Court on a case on which I have served as lead counsel on appeal, and am also committed to an accreditation visit at a law school in Chicago on behalf of the ABA from March 28 through April 1, 2015.
  • If the claims relating to All Saints go to trial, submit the claims on the current summary judgment record and any additional evidence that the parties want to submit. For efficiency, we propose that we agree that the Court made the same evidentiary rulings made in its Order of February 19, 2015 (without agreeing to those rulings) and then submit the case on the current record and any additional evidence the parties submit.

As for your proposed severance, we  do not think  we  should  spend the time  and effort to sever the claims, at least until after mediation has achieved a settlement or  reached an impasse. Even if we ultimately may agree to a severance, we cannot agree to  your current motion to sever because of the language about inapplicable Canon 32 and because there is no pleading  to support the grant of relief under  Canon 32, among other   reasons.

I look forward to your response.


Tom Leatherbury