ENS–El Paso Judge changes mind, decides on trial in property dispute case

The Diocese of Rio Grande and the Episcopal Church thought they’d received a favorable court ruling in a property dispute involving a breakaway congregation.

Then the judge changed his mind and ordered both parties to appear in 210th District Court in El Paso County, Texas, on March 3.

“He basically said he wants to make a decision based on findings of fact, that he wants this to go to trial, either a bench trial or a jury trial,” said diocesan associate chancellor Bill Juvrud in a March 3 telephone interview from his office. No trial date has been set.

“We’ve been in the middle of litigation on this for awhile,” acknowledged Juvrud.

The case stems from the Oct. 21, 2008 vote by a majority of members of St. Francis on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in El Paso to disaffiliate from the local diocese and from the Episcopal Church.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande

4 comments on “ENS–El Paso Judge changes mind, decides on trial in property dispute case

  1. Pb says:

    This may be very important. Many of these cases have been decided on summary judgments. A summary judgment is only appropriate when then are no genuine issues of materail fact. I think there are fact issues in these cases and conceding that there are none weakens the case of the local congregation.

  2. Cennydd says:

    I think that Schori and Company desperately want to avoid a jury trial. A summary judgment is the opinion of one person, while jury verdicts are the opinion of an entire panel……who may differ entirely from that of the judge. And they often have a wider range of individual opinions to consider before coming to a consensus. I have served on a number of civil juries, and this has been my experience.

  3. Pb says:

    You do not get to a jury unless there are disputed material facts. In most of the cases both sides have contended that there are no disputed facts. I agree that these cases should go to a jury as a finder of facts.

  4. Dale Rye says:

    In Texas, the parties have an absolute right to have a jury determine contested questions of fact, but questions of law are within the exclusive province of the judge. As a matter of federal constitutional law, neither a judge nor a jury can make findings that require taking a position on a theological dispute. Other than the prohibited question of whether the majority leadership of St. Francis-on-the-Hill is more faithful to Anglican theology than the majority leadership of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, I have not heard that there actually are any disputed fact questions here.

    (Full disclosure: my mother, who belongs to another ACNA parish, lives about three miles west of St. Francis.)

    There is obviously a dispute about what the law is, and about how to apply it to this situation, but those are questions for a judge, not a jury. As for the facts, the deeds say what the deeds say, and so do the articles of incorporation and all the other relevant documents. Nobody disputes any of that. The only question is what the documents [i]mean[/i] and that is a legal question, not a factual one. This latest ruling obviously came as a surprise to both sides, who agreed on the facts, if nothing else.

    Since it is now the 8th, does anybody out West know what the judge said back on the 3rd about which particular fact issues he now thinks require resolution?