In a hearing this morning before Judge John Chupp in the 141st District Court in Tarrant County, our attorney filed a motion that requires the lawyers who have brought litigation against us to prove that they had the legal authority to bring the suit. They moved for a continuance, which the Judge denied.The plaintiffs in the Fort Worth litigation claim to be the authentic "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" and the "Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth." The defendants are given different designations in the lawsuit, but the fact is that they are the true and continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its associated Corporation. The District Court is thus faced with the spectacle of two entities, each of whom as plaintiff is suing itself and the other as defendants. (That is the plaintiffs' chosen strategy, as I explained in this earlier post.)
At 10 a.m. Judge Chupp adjourned the hearing due to the fact that a jury trial in another case was scheduled to resume in his court. The hearing on our Rule 12 motion will reconvene at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
Please continue to keep this situation in your daily prayers, and pray for Judge Chupp and attorney Shelby Sharpe by name. As you did last Sunday, please pray during worship this week. For those who are able, fasting as well as prayer will be appropriate and appreciated on the 16th.
The defendant entities filed a motion under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure which challenged the authority of the plaintiffs' attorneys to bring a lawsuit in their names. The attorneys had requested a continuance so that the court could address the partial summary judgment motion which they filed late Friday afternoon. (The judgment requested by the motion would be only "partial" because it would not resolve all of the claims in the complaint, but only the claim for declaratory relief.) The plaintiffs argued, rather inconsistently in this observer's opinion, that the Court could resolve the matter of their authority to bring the lawsuit by deciding the partial summary judgment motion as a matter of law, while it would take a lengthy factual hearing to resolve the defendants' motion challenging their authority.
The Court denied their motion for a continuance -- that is the important news in this announcement. It means that the plaintiffs will have to put on their case for their authority to file suit now, and that the court will make a decision without looking at the plaintiffs' summary adjudication papers. They argued the matter for and hour and a half this morning, when the judge had to take up a scheduled jury trial. So the hearing on the motion challenging the attorneys' authority to sue will be continued next Wednesday afternoon.
I will have much more to post on this case after next Wednesday.
[UPDATE 09/09/09: The plaintiffs have corroborated the account given above in a brief post at their Website, and given one additional detail about briefs being filed next week in response to "questions from the judge":
Attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth presented arguments today in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas in opposition to two motions filed by former diocesan leaders challenging the authority of the attorneys and leaders of reorganized Diocese. The hearing was continued until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16, at which time both sides will present short briefs on questions from the judge, the Hon. John P. Chupp.It is always a good sign that a judge asks questions. In my view, there are a lot of them in this case -- see my previous posts linked at this page.]
[UPDATE 09/10/09: ENS has now chimed in with its own story on the proceedings here. Note that its account makes no mention of the crucial denial of the plaintiffs' motion for a continuance, with the consequences for their partial summary judgment motion as discussed above. It now appears that the Court will squarely address ECUSA's contentions as to whether a diocese may withdraw when it takes up the matter again on September 16. The briefs which the Court has requested before the hearing, as I understand it, are specifically to address those contentions.]