Oral arguments on each side’s motion for partial summary judgement were heard this morning in a two-hour hearing before the Hon. John Chupp
Oral arguments on each side’s motion for partial summary judgement were heard this morning in a two-hour hearing before the Hon. John Chupp, and a ruling is expected from him soon. The judge asked for each side to submit proposed orders to him on Monday, Feb. 23. He will likely select one of them to sign, subject to any alterations he may wish to make.
In the course of the hearing before several dozen clergy and lay people, Judge Chupp asked each side, “What are you asking me for today?” The Plaintiffs argued for a “simple solution” acknowledging that the property is held in trust for the Diocese and Congregations by those individuals recognized by The Episcopal Church.
The Diocese and Corporation countered that, under neutral principles of law as mandated for the trial court to follow, the Dennis Canon has been found by the Texas Supreme Court to have been revoked, leaving the property in trust for the parishes and missions in fellowship with the Diocese, and only those individual defendants before the court are the duly-elected officers of the Diocese and the Corporation.
Judge Chupp posed a number of questions to the Plaintiffs during their presentation, and the discussion was frequently animated. Near the conclusion of the hearing he indicated a philosophical preference for local self-determination, asking, “Why do we need to have a ‘big government’ solution to this where a New York church says [what is best]?”
While the ruling on the motions for partial summary judgment is yet to be issued, one section of the dispute will go forward separately. During oral argument by attorney Frank Hill, who represented the plaintiff parishes, Judge Chupp decided to sever out the claims of All Saints’, Fort Worth, for a separate jury trial this spring. As an alternative, the judge urged Mr. Hill several times to opt instead for a settlement under diocesan Canon 32, which sets out a procedure to follow in cases where a parish wishes to separate from the Diocese. Though Mr. Hill expressed his belief that the Diocese would not have given the parish a favorable settlement at any time from 2008 to the present, the judge chided him, saying, “But you didn’t even try.”
Following the hearing, Bishop Iker commented, “I am grateful to everyone who observed a time of prayer and fasting for this key hearing. While we were very encouraged by several comments and questions posed by Judge Chupp to attorneys on both sides, we have learned that you cannot rely on impressions to try to predict what his ruling might be.
“Continue to pray for clarity and right understanding for him as he considers how to decide this case in the days ahead. We hope to have a decision sometime next week. We continue to trust in the Lord for the outcome in this case.”