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.

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