Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fort Worth Requests Texas Supreme Court to Hear Appeal

Yesterday, June 1, Bishop Jack Iker and his Diocese of Fort Worth filed papers with the Supreme Court of Texas which request that court to take jurisdiction of the appeal from Judge Chupp's grant of summary judgment to Bishop Ohl and the ersatz diocese. Bishop Iker's office has released the following statement about their action:

Statement of Jurisdiction
asks state Supreme Court
to hear appeal

On Wednesday, June 1, attorneys for the Diocese initiated our direct appeal to the Texas State Supreme Court, arguing that the high court should review the trial court's Feb. 8 judgment in favor of local Episcopal Church (TEC) parties without the delay of an intermediate appeal.

The Statement of Jurisdiction asks for the Supreme Court's immediate attention to what it describes as ”the largest church property dispute in Texas history,” involving ”60 churches and over $100 million in property.”

The Statement shows that the case meets all the statutory requirements for a direct appeal. Foremost among these is the requirement that the lower court's decision challenges “the constitutionality of a state statute.” It explains that the trial court order, if allowed to stand, would overturn trust law in the state and set a precedent against the use of neutral principles to decide church property cases. The neutral principles approach has been established in Texas and most other states since 1979 and has been upheld in five Texas courts of appeal, as well as the state Supreme Court, as recently as 2007. The effect on trust law would extend to virtually every non-profit organization in the state, making it difficult or impossible for them to hold bank accounts, take loans, or conduct other business anywhere in Texas.

TEC supporters have 10 days in which to respond to the filing. Diocesan attorney Scott Brister explains that “the Court holds conference and takes votes every Monday in June; thereafter, it does not convene again until August.” Attorneys for the Diocese hope the court will accept the appeal before its summer recess and set a hearing date for early fall.

The link in the statement is to a 1.4MB .pdf of the Statement of Jurisdiction filed with the Court. As noted above, Judge Chupp's decision based itself on the now-archaic doctrine of deference to "hierarchical" churches, and only the Supreme Court can decide whether or not this approach is still valid in Texas. Bishop Iker's attorney quoted in the statement, Scott Brister, is himself a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, now back in private practice.

The appeal is a Texas-sized piece of litigation: take a look at the first five pages of the Jurisdictional Statement, which are required just to list all of the parties involved and their counsel!

We should know by June 27 whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear the appeal.


  1. Well, this is certainly an interesting maneuver. I wonder if the faux diocese will do anything about it. Any guesses what the decision may be if the Texas Supreme Court says yes to hearing the case which I hope they do. Certainly this property *mess* needs to be straightened out.

    SC Blu Cat lady

  2. The faux diocese has until June 13 to file its brief with reasons for the Court not to take the appeal; I imagine it will indeed file such a response. Then, if the Court conferences on the following Monday, we should hear something by June 27.

  3. Interesting times ahead! I hope the Texas Supreme Court will take the case.

  4. But if the rump diocese were successful in convincing the Court not to take the appeal, it would still be appealed at the intermediate level, and then most assuredly appealed to the TX Supreme Court regardless of the intermediate outcome. So their only motivation here is simply to drag it out as long as possible, hoping we'll just give up and give in.

  5. Bummer!! That is TEC for you- soooo considerate-NOT!

  6. The two weeks the judge gave the parties to work out the terms of a supersedeas bond are now up. I have no word on whether an agreement was reached; the parties were going to notify the court if it was. If no agreement was reached, the court said it would sign one of the orders already submitted (I'm guessing it would the order submitted by +Iker's attorneys, since the judge indicated at one point that he thought the ersatz diocese's attorneys were being unreasonable).

  7. Recently posted on the rump ersatz diocese website. Now they want $950,000 bond from Bishop Ikers’ Diocease. Don’t you just love the URL name? “holystewardshipfiles”. Really? What is so Holy about suing other Christians in court for property which one doesn’t even own?

    So now instead of $13m, they only want $950,000. Sounds like they are fishing for funds for further legal actions. I thought Judge Chupp was to sign one of two orders - theirs at $13m bond or ours at $0 bond. So far no news on that issue.