There is progress to report today in the matter of the supersedeas bond* designed to protect property in the Diocese while the judgment against us is on appeal. After five months of negotiation without reaching agreement on the terms of the bond, attorneys returned to the 141st district court, where the Hon. John Chupp heard arguments and signed an order for a supersedeas bond and certain other injunctions and directives.
In advance of the hearing this morning, lawyers representing each side filed a motion and a new proposed order. The attorneys representing Episcopal Church interests also brought the judge three exhibits and a thick binder of material re-copied from previously-filed documents. As before, their request was for a bond of nearly $1 million.
The existing judgment in the case, if carried out, would give all assets to the local TEC parties. Therefore none of the property can be sold or mortgaged by the diocesan Corporation. Pressing the attorneys for TEC and referring to the Diocese and Corporation, Judge Chupp asked, “What assets do they have [to use for a bond]? ... I'm serious.”
After hearing from each side and noting that the 14-page proposed order submitted to him today “is a lot thicker than the one was back in May,” the judge returned to the original three-page document presented on May 19, 2011, which he said had been “sitting in my drawer since then.” He announced that he already had struck out a paragraph requesting “additional security” for the TEC parties and had entered a figure of $5 million as a benchmark of “fair market rental value” of a select dozen churches in the Diocese – a value presented in May by the TEC attorneys. Lead diocesan attorney Shelby Sharpe explained that no rent ever is paid by churches for use of property owned by the Corporation. Nevertheless, said the judge, the property “does have some value.”
Judge Chupp then set the bond at two percent of $5 million, or $100,000, to be paid by Nov. 20, 2011. In addition to the cash amount, the order requires each of the 48 parishes and missions involved in the judgment to present a “monthly summary of the sources, amounts and payees of any and all expenditures ...”
Bishop Iker wishes to thank the members of our legal team for their continued service. He also thanks all those who have prayed for an equitable resolution to this question. He added, “It is a shame that this money will not be used for ministry by either group, but only sit in a bank account for months or years.”
The terms of today's order will be in effect as long as our appeal is pending before the Texas courts.
*A supersedeas bond is a deposit made during an appeal process when the case involves property and the party making the appeal wishes to delay full payment until the process concludes.
The text of the Order which Judge Chupp signed today may be seen at this link. There is also an account of the earlier impasse at the hearing last May 19 on the Diocese's legal news page, below the account of today's hearing.