Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Living in a fantasy land

There are people out there who believe all kinds of strange things. There are those who believe that anyone but Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, that we never really landed on the moon, that President Obama is not a natural-born citizen, and that dioceses cannot dissolve their union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA. Apparently those in that last group, at least, believe that people might appeal decisions they win in court.

Now while I would expect a news agency like the Associated Press to be unbiased (or at least try to be), I don't necessarily expect the press releases of the Diocese of Fort Worth and its counterpart to be unbiased reports. But I would expect them to not loose touch with reality.

So while I was amused by some of the spin in the press release from Bishop Ohl's group, I was totally blown away by the ending. This was the last sentence: "No decision has been made whether either the Episcopal faction or the Southern Cone faction will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court." I could understand why the Episcopal faction would appeal, since their whole strategy has been hinging on this, but the Southern Cone faction appealing the decision they won? Are you kidding me?

Note what the Court of Appeals actually said in its conclusion:
"We conditionally grant the writ of mandamus and direct the trial court to modify its order of September 16, 2009 to follow the mandates of rule 12 and to strike the pleadings filed by Mr. Nelson and Ms. Wells on behalf of the Corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese and bar them from appearing in the underlying cause as attorneys of record for those named plaintiffs. If the trial court fails to do so, the writ will issue."

That means the pretender group (Bp Ohl, et al) will have their pleadings stricken by Judge Chupp (or by the higher court through the Writ if he does not take advantage of the opportunity). And attorneys Nelson and Wells are barred from representing the Diocese and Corporation because they were not hired by Bp Iker, et al.

If they still want to sue, they will have to file a new suit as a group of individuals, but they will not be able to bring the suit as THE Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth because none of those individuals are officers in these entities.

It would be best if, when they regroup and re-strategize, they just decide not to file the lawsuit.

UPDATE: The trial judge has now followed through with the ruling from the Appeals Court and tossed the TEC group out of court. But, of course, "No decision has been made whether either the Episcopal faction or the Southern Cone faction will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court."


Fr Timothy Matkin said...

The news made the local paper and it looks to me like they got it straight down the middle.

Here's the highlight:

The opinion, written by Justice Anne Gardner, says that "a corporation cannot sue itself" and that a judge would be "unnecessarily confused by presentations from two opposing factions who claim to be the 'The Corporation' and 'The Fort Worth Diocese.'"

The opinion also says that the work performed by the attorneys, Jonathan Nelson and Kathleen Wells, in the name of the corporation and the diocese should be thrown out but that the attorneys can represent the individuals who hired them.

What happens next remains to be seen. The group can ask the court to rehear the case, appeal to the Supreme Court or restyle the lawsuit and put it back before Judge John Chupp in the 141st District Court, where it was originally filed.

"Those are among the options, but no decisions have been made," said Katie Sherrod, a spokeswoman for the group. "It's one step in what is going to be a very long process. ... We are very patiently letting the process play out. In the meantime, we are getting on with the work of the church."

Anonymous said...

This is the post on Three-Legged Stool, in its entirety. The last paragraph above the link to the actual ruling is particularly funny. (hat-tip to Virtue Online):

News from Fort Worth
The Second Court of Appeals issued it's ruling that

Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.

The decision continues:

We are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction.

The Southern Cone has not responded, yet, and I'm sure they will file an appeal. Remember, the schismatics are not interested in the property, folks, but don't hold your breath.

Read the decision here.