9/17/2009

Did Bishop Iker Lie?

Out here in Episcopal Church land, those of us interested in the unfolding story of the legal struggles in Fort Worth rely upon reasonably honest statements made by the various parties. Concerning the ruling of the Judge in court yesterday, it has been hard and confusing to come by accurate information. Bishop Iker's press release and TEC Fort Worth's statement contradict one another regarding what rulings were made. So, who is lying?

Today, thanks to The Episcopal Church Diocese of Fort Worth, the actual ruling of Judge John Chupp made on September 16, 2009 has been released. TEC -DFW assures us that this is the only ruling made at this hearing. Please note, the highlighted words were added by the judge in his own hand.


"NO. 141-237105-09
THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF § IN THE DISTRICT COURT
FORT WORTH, THE CORPORATION OF §
THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT §
WORTH, and THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, §
§
Plaintiffs §
§
v. § TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS
§
FRANKLIN SALAZAR, JO ANN PATTON, §
WALTER VIRDEN IH, ROD BARBER, §
CHAD BATES, JACK LEO IKER, and THE §
ANGLICAN PROVINCE OF THE §
SOUTHERN CONE'S "DIOCESE OF FORT §
WORTH," holding itself out as "THE §
EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH," §
§
Defendants § 141ST JUDICIAL DISTRICT

ORDER GRANTING RULE 12 MOTION

On 9th day of September, 2009, came on to be heard Defendants' Motion Challenging the
Authority of Attorneys to Prosecute This Suit on Behalf of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
and The Corporation of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Movants appeared by and
through their counsel of record along with Jonathan D. F. Nelson and Kathleen Wells. All
parties announced ready for the hearing, which began and recessed until September 16, 2009.
Movants once again appeared by and through their counsel of record along with Jonathan D. F. Nelson and Kathleen Wells and announced ready for the resumption of the hearing. Upon
conclusion of the hearing, the Court finds that the attorneys cited to appear have not discharged their burden of proof that they were hired by individuals holding positions at the time of the hiring within The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Corporation of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth - that one associated with Bishop Iker.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Jonathan D. F. Nelson and Kathleen Wells are
barred from appearing in this suit as attorneys for The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth that is associated with Bishop Iker.

SIGNED this 16 day of September, 2009."

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth issued this clarification:

"What the legal language of the order (click here to read it and note that the hand-written portions of the order are in the judge's own hand) means is this: essentially the court refused to strike the pleadings i.e. it ruled that the reorganized Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation had the right to continue to sue the defendants and establish our right to seek declarative judgment. The defendants lost on their main argument that we should not be able to sue the defendants because they are the rightful diocese. This was the main objective of former Bishop Iker's attorneys, and they did not achieve it. The court left that determination for a later hearing.

The order also barred our attorneys from appearing on this suit as attorneys for the entities associated with Jack Iker. Our attorneys have, of course, never asserted that.

As is clear in the order, no other rulings were made. The judge did make comments and he did ask questions, but he made no other rulings."

TEC Diocese of Fort Worth stated, "no other rulings were made. The judge did make comments and he did ask questions, but he made no other rulings."

In a previous blog I stated,

"...either the Press Release from the Iker camp is a misrepresentation of the facts or the statement from the TEC Diocese is. I also asked, "What is going on here?"

We now have a clearer answer. The Press Release from the Province of the Southern Cone/ ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth so misrepresents the facts as to constitute a falsehood.

The basis for this assessment is this simple false statement made in that Press Release: "The judge also ruled that neither the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church nor the Constitution and Canons of this diocese prohibit withdrawal from TEC and realignment under another province."

There was no ruling concerning the Constitution and Canons, therefore the press release was a falsification of the facts. That's how it seems from here.

If there was any such ruling, let Bishop Iker or his press assistant supply it. If not, he should retract his statement.

13 comments:

  1. Did Bishop Iker Lie?

    Are we limiting this to his recent statement about the court ruling, or are we going back to ordination vows?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Unfortunately none of Jack's lies surprise anyone in Ft. Worth......we have been living with them for a long time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Rev'd Harris,

    Two thoughts from an orthodox Episcopalian within a TEC diocese (translated, not a member of +Iker's flock):

    First, other than what I perceive to be your own predisposition to believe whatever you are told by those opposed to +Iker and the people whom he shepherds, do you have any justification upon which to decide that either +Iker's or the spokesperson's for "the continuing Episcopal Diocese" assessment of the ruling is "a lie", or "a falsification" or "a falsehood," as opposed to being their particular perception of the import of the judge's ruling? I realize that you disagree strongly with +Iker and with his actions and those of the diocese that he leads. That is not material to a fair assessment of the commentary regarding the Texas court's ruling, however. Comparing what is posted on The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth's website (the one associated with Bishop Iker to use the judge's language) and what you've quoted that you were told by the "continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth", it looks to me as though the two competing sides are claiming things as rulings that were not contained within the actual order signed by the judge. Clearly, both are trying to put the best face on the court's ruling and in so doing, claim victory (or at least not admit defeat). But lying? I do not see clear evidence to support such a charge. From my perspective, and seeking to try to breathe something of "Christian charity" into the tragic disgrace that Christian versus Christian litigation over "church property" represents, I'd suggest that if either side is guilty of anything here it is what I will describe as "the sin of spin."

    Second, I find it interesting that you take it upon yourself to rename the diocese lead by +Iker. That diocese has never ceased using the name by which it was known from the time of its formation in 1983 and by which it was known at the time it sought admission to the voluntary association of dioceses known as "The General Convention." Using that same name, those folks withdrew from The General Convention. Stated another way, they left by the same identity as they came. In fairness, I suggest that at least until such time as a court rules that The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (the one associated with Bishop Iker) are not entitled to that name (and that day may never come), I think it inappropriate for you to assume the right to take the name from them, give that name to anyone else, and worse to create a new name and arbitrarily assign it to them.

    No, Rev'd Harris, I do not see clear evidence of liars here, just as I do not see any winners. Unfortunately, all that I see is pain, loss and injury to the Body of Christ. As a layperson, I am deeply saddened that “priests of God” (on both sides of the issue) are active participants in inflicting that injury.

    God's peace.

    Joe Roberts <><

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  4. Mr. Roberts, in your learned position as a Louisiana lawyer, could you please point out to us where the judge's ruling makes this assertion?

    The judge also ruled that neither the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church nor the Constitution and Canons of this diocese prohibit withdrawal from TEC and realignment under another province.

    If not, then the assertion the judge made this ruling is false, hence a falsehood, otherwise known as a lie. Liars tell lies.

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  5. I just have a simple question. If the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (and the corporation) is controlled by Iker, who is the plaintiff now and what standing do they have?

    Paul B

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  6. Mark,

    This is an odd jump to conclusions, considering the Diocese itself admits in its release that the "judge" made other statements from the bench. So- it is incredibly possible, from their tone, that those statements were exactly as Iker reports.

    But you jump to the conclusion that Iker is lying. Interesting. It will be interesting to see if your position holds up over time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I shall answer you question with a set of questions:

    Is the Pope German?
    Dose the night follow the day?
    Would not a Rose, by any other name smell as sweet?

    Is this less a matter of Bishop Iker lieing, as it is a matter of him mastering and depending upon casuistry to a level that would make a Jesuit blush?

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  8. I would note that StandFirm has posted transcripts of the Sept. 9 hearing, with the promise that the transcript of the Sept. 16 hearing is coming. So- I will be interested to see who is going to be in the more truthful position in accurately representing the tone of the hearing. If nothing else, StandFirm appears to be searching for actual facts here. And some of the commenters have already noted that TEC lawyers got flummoxed in their inability to point to where the PB has powers to do what she did, per the transcript.

    Don't get overconfident in thinking the Diocese is telling the truth, Mark. They may be, but I don't think the evidence is there yet. Your biases may lead you down the wrong path with regard to this episode, although that may have little to do with the eventual outcome.

    ReplyDelete
  9. First, let’s understand what Rule 12 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure seeks to control. The Rule is entitled “Attorney to Show Authority.” I don’t practice in that jurisdiction and don’t know anything of how that rule has been interpreted by Texas courts, but on its face, the rule intends to prevent competing lawyers from representing a single litigant.

    Having read the order, and to prevent confusion in the future, the judge wants to be clear that the challenged attorneys do not represent “The Corporation of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth that one associated with Bishop Iker.”

    I also don’t know the rules associated with corporate names (assuming both entities were incorporated in Texas) in Texas, but when they are similar enough to cause confusion in the courts, some means on distinguishing them will be imposed, if only for the purposes of litigation.

    Even though I don’t practice in Texas, the judge’s order is crystal clear for the purpose of disposing the motion heard on September 16, 2009. Jonathan D. F. Nelson and Kathleen Wells will not be permitted to represent “The Corporation of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth that one associated with Bishop Iker.”

    The larger argument of who the rightful and legal owners of the property under challenge has been left for another day.

    Any attorney, who had made such a representation of the court results as asserted by the press release under the name of Bp Iker, would be subject to sanction under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

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  10. Dah-Veed: Those of us who weren't at the hearing won't know for sure whose version is more accurate until the transcript of the hearing becomes available, which is supposed to be sometime next week. The usual procedure is for the court to make its ruling from the bench and for counsel for the party in whose favor the ruling was made to prepare an order for the judge's signature. There can sometimes be a lag time of several days between when the ruling is made and when the order is signed. In this case, the defendants' attorney came to the hearing with an order prepared, which the judge signed with some hand-written modifications (which I think make the order very confusing). It is _possible_ that the judge made some additional rulings from the bench but the written order based on those rulings has not yet been submitted to the court for signing. I have no idea whether this is what happened or not. So, until we've had a chance to read the contract, I'm inclined to reserve judgment.

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  11. The "ruling" is what the judge signs (presumptively incorporating any oral dispositions from the bench) and, if it is appealed, what the appeal is heard on: the written record.

    What I would like to see are the original motion papers and the plaintiffs' response. This will more certainly indicate what issues were raised (in light of the procedural rules invoked) and allow one to determine to what extent the judge may have narrowed the ruling in light of what may well have been the extraneous kinds of issues Bp. Iker seems to think were decided.

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  12. "So until we've had a chance to review the contract..."

    That should be transcript, not contract.

    By the way, I think a point some people are missing is that the court ruled that Ms. Wells and Mr. Powell failed to meet their burden of proof that they were hired by the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth that are associated with Bishop Iker. This implies that they had such a burden. It also implies the existence of a diocese and a diocesan corporation that are associated with Bishop Iker. One might argue that there are now two dioceses: one whose bishop is Bishop Iker and the other whose provisional bishop is Bishop Gulick. But as a matter of law, there is only one Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and according to the order, it's associated with Bishop Iker.

    These may not be the inference that the judge wishes to be drawn from his order (and ultimately it doesn't matter: the judge may reach a different conclusion as each side develops its case, and it's the final judgment that counts), but we won't know until we have had a chance to review he transcript and put the order in context.

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  13. The court transcripts were published on the Stand Firm website. Read here:

    Hearing-Sept 9th:
    http://www.standfirminfaith.com/media/Transcriptof09-09-09Hearing.pdf


    The ruling of Sept.16th:
    ttp://www.standfirminfaith.com/media/ORDER_GRANTING_RULE_12_MOTION.pdf


    Hearing of Sept. 16th:
    http://www.standfirminfaith.com/media/diofw_tx_9-16-09_hearing.pdf

    ReplyDelete

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