Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Foiled Again!

The litigious laypersons and liturgical leaders of the ersatz Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth have once again been thwarted in their egregious efforts to entomb the eponymous Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in the entanglements of eternal court proceedings. (The alliteration is a small attempt at conveying what it is like to be a member of Bishop Jack Iker's Diocese these days -- surrounded by process servers arriving with ever more and more official papers that pile on top of one another until one cannot tell where one stops and the next begins.)

The latest attempt at entangling litigation came as Bishop Ohl and his cohorts asked the federal court in Fort Worth to lift the stay it had imposed on the earlier suit they had filed for trademark infringement and other claims relating to their asserted identity. They based their request on the order granting their motions for summary judgment which Judge Chupp had signed in February, and which he finalized in April, and argued that his ruling resolved who was the "real" Diocese of Fort Worth.

Bishop Iker and his attorneys responded to the federal court's subsequent order to show cause why the stay should not be lifted, and argued that nothing had been finally resolved. They noted that they had filed an appeal from Judge Chupp's decision directly with the Texas Supreme Court.

Today the parties received notice that federal Judge Terry Means had entered an order continuing his stay in the federal court proceedings pending resolution of the state-court lawsuit by the Texas Supreme Court. At the same time, he entered an order staying all further proceedings in a related federal case filed against Bishop Iker by All Saints parish, one of the congregations that chose to remain in the Episcopal Church (USA). So there will be no need to litigate on both fronts at once, and the parties can concentrate on their state court lawsuit.

At about the same time, however, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth entered an order lifting its stay in the appeal taken by St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and Bishop Ohl from the Hood County case involving the bequest left to that church (when it was a member of Bishop Iker's Diocese) by one of its parishioners. The order directed the appellants to file their opening brief.

Meanwhile, an insurance company has filed suit against Bishop Iker also in federal court. The suit seeks a declaration that neither he nor his Diocese are the named beneficiaries under the policies which they purchased and paid for; it adopts the reasoning of Bishop Ohl's complaint by arguing that the actions to take the Diocese of Fort Worth out of ECUSA were ultra vires and void. [UPDATE 05/13/2011: In a release issued today, Bishop Iker's Diocese reports that the judge in this case declined to issue a temporary restraining order to stop arbitration proceedings from going forward under the terms of the insurance contract.]

Which is all to say: there is never a dull moment in Fort Worth.


  1. Being someone who isn't a legal expert, is the lifting of the stay re the Hood County issue a good thing for our Diocese (that being of Bishop Iker) or is it good for the rump diocese?

  2. As the Monty Python troup would say, "This is getting silly!"

    Reminds me of the "I am the Bishop of East Anglia" sketch.

  3. DDR, the claims on appeal in the Hood County lawsuit are just the claims to the bequest made by the ersatz diocese and its bishop, which the judge severed from the claims of the parish itself, and then dismissed. So the ersatz diocese and Bishop Ohl will now have to try to convince the Court of Appeals that when a parishioner leaves a bequest to her individual parish, she really meant for the money to go to the Episcopal Church (USA) in the event that the parish affiliated with another denomination.

    It's probably a good thing that this appeal get resolved at this time, because if the judge's order of dismissal is upheld, it will greatly simply the litigation in Hood County.

  4. From the Diocean office -

    "May 18, 2011

    A hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow, May 19, in the 141st District Court, to determine the amount of the supersedeas bond that the Diocese will be required to post to avoid having to turn over our properties pending the appeal.

    Following our Motion, filed in April, to set the bond at $0 and permit our congregations to continue using and caring for their property, the plaintiffs now have filed what appears to be a request for a bond of “at least $13.5 million.”

    As always, please keep the hearing in your prayers, and, if possible, plan to attend. The court is located on the fourth floor of the Family Law Center on Weatherford Street in Fort Worth."

    A.S. - what are the chances Judge Chupp will rule in favor of the rump erzatz diocese' request for $13.5m ? In my humble lay opinion, TEC is counting on a win in this as a default way of getting our property. I don't know the sources, but I am assuming that the Diocese or contributors don't have $13.5 m to put up for bond. Seems like TEC is trying to gain control of property without/before any State Supreme Court ruling.

  5. Not to worry, DDR -- as is usual with them, ECUSA and Bishop Ohl are reaching for the moon, and hoping that they will come away with a big chunk of it. The purpose of a bond pending appeal is to ensure that the properties which are the subject of the court's order remain intact pending the appeal - can you imagine anyone in any of Bishop Iker's churches wanting to trash their buildings out of spite, even if they lose?

    No, I am sure you cannot. The properties will still all be there, in pristine condition, regardless of how the appeal comes out. Bishop Ohl could not even manage to hire in Fort Worth caretakers more lovingly devoted to the properties than those who are currently using them, and it is a vicious slander to suggest otherwise.

    Their request is so outlandish that I may have to do a post on it after the hearing. ECUSA and Bishop Ohl's group are playing the role of the mother who lost her baby in the famous story about King Solomon, and who was willing to see the other mother's baby split in half rather than concede defeat. Nothing good can come of their posturing.