MBC takes legal case to state court of appeals
By Bob Baysinger
April 27, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) attorneys have appealed the decision handed down by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Tom Brown in the MBC suit for declaratory judgment against five breakaway corporations.
The notice of appeal, filed April 16, sends the case to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, in Kansas City.
Summarizing the facts for the Court of Appeals, MBC attorneys said in their notice that the case “involves the non-profit equivalent of a hostile take-over of five corporations formerly controlled by the Missouri Baptist Convention, involving assets totaling nearly $200 million.”
Attorneys said the five corporations had charters which guaranteed the MBC the exclusive right to elect corporate trustees.
“Nonetheless, the five agencies filed amended charters with the Secretary of State and declared themselves to be independent, self-electing corporate boards – all without Convention or Executive Board approval.”
The appeal notice tells judges that the MBC had previously sought declaratory and injunctive relief, declaring the agencies’ amended charters to be null and void and “that the five agencies are still subject to accountability and control of the Convention and Executive Board.”
According to Mike Whitehead, lead attorney for the MBC legal team, the notice of appeal begins the process that leads to a hearing before a three judge panel. The next step in the process will be the filing of a “record on appeal” containing the motions and orders from the case below which will be reviewed by the appellate judges. Then parties will file written briefs. Whitehead said the appeal will raise several rulings in which the trial court erred as a matter of law:
1. that churches named in the lawsuit are not “members” of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and thus lacked standing to represent the convention.
2. that the Executive Board has no “legally protectable interest” in this case and thus lacked standing to sue as a corporation in its own right
3. that the Missouri Baptist Convention is not the “sole member” of Missouri Baptist College by virtue of the right to select its trustees.
4. that the Secretary of State was not a necessary party in the case below.
Judge Brown ruled on April 7 that none of the named plaintiffs, including the churches, the MBC and the executive board, had standing to assert the claims against any of the five defendants. Brown said that messengers were “members” of the Convention
MBC attorneys attempted to filed an amended petition in Brown’s court to name messengers, but the judge denied this motion. The denial of this motion will also be a point on appeal.