Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
Updates on the status of litigation
before the Texas Supreme Court
    Feb. 28, 2012

At the request of the TEC parties in our case, an extension of 10 days was granted last week in the filing calendar for the appeal. Rather than submitting their reply to our brief by Feb. 27, as was originally scheduled, they are now expected to reply by March 8. Our response deadline will likewise be delayed a further 10 days, to March 23.

The hearing set for Feb. 29 for oral arguments in the appeal by Good Shepherd, San Angelo, has been delayed as well. Late last week the head of Good Shepherd’s legal team was told by his doctors that he required major surgery which could not be put off. This last-minute situation made it impossible for any other attorney to prepare to take his place. The Court will reschedule the hearing for a later date.

  Feb. 23, 2012

With oral arguments set for Wednesday, Feb. 29, in the case of Good Shepherd, San Angelo, and the Diocese of Northwest Texas [see below], our Diocese has filed a Brief of Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) in support of the parish’s right to control its property. The brief sets out sound reasons for the court to employ the Neutral Principles approach in its decision.

Read the brief here.


Dec. 16, 2011


Today in Austin the Texas Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments on Feb. 29, 2012, concerning the appellate court's decision in a case between the parish of Good Shepherd, San Angelo, and the Episcopal Church Diocese of Northwest Texas. This follows written briefings the Court requested from each party earlier this year. [see below]

According to a statement from the Court's public information officer, the principal issues in the property dispute between the diocese and congregation are “(1) whether in Texas the dispute should be decided by ‘neutral principles’ – using established trust and property law and taking account of deeds, the governing language employed by a local church and the larger denomination – or by ‘compulsory deference’ – determining where church members place ultimate authority over property use; and (2) whether the trial court erred by deciding the diocese owns the property.”

The outcome of this appeal is likely to have significant impact for our own. Early in the new year, our legal team expects to file an amicus brief with the Court, supporting the position of the San Angelo parish.

As you continue to pray for our own legal team through this Advent and Christmas, please include the people of Good Shepherd and their legal team in your prayers.

Aug. 22, 2011

Since submitting our direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court in June, we have yet to receive a decision stating whether the Court will take the case now or require us first to go before the Second Court of Appeals here in Fort Worth. The justices deliberate on Mondays and post their decisions on Fridays on their Web site.

However, we did receive the good news on Friday, Aug. 19, that the high court has requested a full briefing in the case of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo regarding the suit brought against them by the Diocese of Northwest Texas and TEC. Good Shepherd is appealing a decision against the parish by the Austin court of appeals, which held that their property belongs to the TEC diocese. This is certainly good news, as the vast majority of petitions to the Supreme Court are denied without a request for full briefing.

The San Angelo case is significant for us because it raises the issue that Texas should adopt neutral principles of law in church property disputes and that the Dennis Canon is invalid under neutral principles. If Good Shepherd were to win, that ruling would apply to us. It may take as much as a full year before the Court makes a decision on their case. Do keep them in your prayers.

July 1, 2011

Today in Austin, the Texas State Supreme Court issued its final orders before summer recess. There was no decision announced on the status of the Diocese's request for a direct appeal of the trial court's February judgment against us. According to an online calendar, the Supreme Court's next scheduled conference is to be held Tuesday, Aug. 16. Normally orders are issued a few days following a meeting of the court.

In the matter of the pending decision on a supersedeas bond, attorneys for the Diocese responded yesterday to the latest Episcopal Church (TEC) proposals with a letter to lead attorney Thomas Leatherbury and a third draft order, on which we hope all parties can agree, so that it can be presented to Judge John Chupp for his signature. TEC attorneys have proposed a July 21 hearing on the bond; however, a hearing would become unnecessary if a resolution is reached beforehand.

Please keep all these matters in your prayers this summer.


Read the Letter to Leatherbury et al.

Latest (6/30/11) proposed order.


  Previous announcements are here.