Shield The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
March 11 , 2011

Statement regarding property inspections


When the Diocese realigned in November 2008, a small minority of our members elected to leave their churches to worship elsewhere. The following April, the Diocese was sued on behalf of those people, and two years later we are still in the midst of what will be a precedent-setting case to defend our property under Texas law.

In the weeks since our last court hearing, on Feb. 8, our lawyers have been conferring and negotiating with the plaintiffs' attorneys over the terms surrounding Judge John Chupp's Jan. 21 ruling, which favored the plaintiffs. Since the Jan. 21 ruling did not dispose of the case, the parties are engaged in a process of "discovery" which permits them to obtain and examine one another's records. Some of the documents requested by the plaintiffs previously have been delivered to them for inspection, and other documents currently are being prepared.

In addition, lawyers for the parishes and missions of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and lawyers representing the minority breakaway faction (affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) are making arrangements for the inspection, requested by attorneys and representatives of the minority faction, of all our property, including the Diocesan Center, Camp Crucis, and all our churches. This inspection is being arranged pursuant to a Request for Entry Upon Property filed by the minority faction pursuant to Rule 196.7(a)(1) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

This rule provides that any party to a lawsuit may request and obtain entry upon the property of another party to the lawsuit "to inspect, measure, survey, photograph, test, or sample the property or any designated object or operation thereon." The Rule is customarily and routinely invoked whenever there is litigation between competing parties with respect to which party has a right to title or possession of property. This is nothing to be alarmed about, though the other side is attempting to use it for propaganda purposes, to promote the impression that they have prevailed in the litigation, when, in fact, it is far from over.

Previous rulings by the Trial Court in the litigation pending in Tarrant County – including the interlocutory Declaratory Judgment – have no effect on the right of the minority faction to inspect the properties. According to Rule 197(a), the right of a party to inspect property in the possession of the other party exists until "the earlier of 30 days before the end of the discovery period or 30 days before trial."

The motivation that underlies the minority faction's decision to incur the thousands of dollars in expense for the inspection of the property in the Diocese is unknown to the attorneys and officers of the Diocese. Unfortunately, however, the Diocese will incur substantial expense, because the inspections by the minority faction must be supervised by the attorneys representing the Diocese and its parishes and missions.

Attorneys representing both sides of the dispute are attempting to schedule the inspections so as to minimize disruption of regularly scheduled activities and events sponsored by the Diocese and its parishes and missions.