We got 15 minutes, they got 15 minutes, and then we got 5 minutes to rebut. The peanut gallery was full on both sides of the central aisle. Oversimplifying greatly to summarize - Mr. Brister argued well for us that the court should and could rule in the matter before it on neutral principles of law. Mr. Gilstrap wanted the court to let TEC call all the shots deferring because TEC is hierarchical. We rebutted by reminding the court that we are talking about a Texas corporation and therefore the court could look at the matter and decide. We also clarified that TEC is not cleanly hierarchical - A diocesan convention cannot be called without a bishop and Standing Committee. An outside bishop cannot just come in and take charge - a reference to the PB's interference here. Someone has already asked me how I thought we fared. I would not venture to guess, I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. I think we made good points, our guys seem pleased with how it went. But the tribunal was rightly guarded in their reactions. One judge did say to Gilstrap that he seemed to be arguing against his own argument at one point.[UPDATE: Commenter Mike Watson has provided this hyperlink to the Court's page where the audio recording of the oral argument may be downloaded for listening and reflection. And this is the direct link to the .mp3 file of the oral arguments. The Diocese of Fort Worth (Bishop Iker) released this statement about the arguments:
Representatives of the Diocese and Corporation appeared before the Second Texas Court of Appeals today in support of the Petition for Writ of Mandamus filed last November. Also present were attorneys associated with the local TEC diocese. The appellate court panel was headed by Justice Lee Ann Dauphinot; also serving were Justices Ann Gardner and Bill Meier. Seating provided for observers was full, and several latecomers were obliged to stand.
Each party had 15 minutes to present its case, with an additional five minutes for rebuttal by the Diocese. There were no surprises in the arguments made to the justices, who posed questions to each side.
Scott A. Brister, representing the Diocese, argued that the question of name identity can be decided on neutral principles of law, without reference to church doctrine. As a practical matter, both parties cannot have the same name, he said, because it makes any ruling in the case confusing and ineffective. The plaintiffs, he said, “filed this suit as [if they were] the diocese formed in 1983, and that's not them.”
Frank Gilstrap, of the Arlington, Texas, law firm Hill Gilstrap, countered that the court must defer to the decisions of TEC, which, he said, has sole authority to name the diocesan bishop and the trustees of the Corporation. “All the court can do is accept the church's decision,” Gilstrap told the justices.
A ruling will be issued at a later time. By the court's order, all proceedings in the case remain stayed.
The brief notice by the ECUSA group is here.]
A decision is not to be expected for several weeks, if not longer.