Court sets hearing date on defense motions
By Bob Baysinger
February 3, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) attorneys will return to court Feb. 26 for the next major hearing in the legal effort to restore the relationship with five breakaway agencies.
The February hearing will deal with a second round of five motions to dismiss that were filed by attorneys for Missouri Baptist College, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Word & Way, The Baptist Home and the Missouri Baptist Foundation last fall. Similar motions to dismiss were filed by the defendants at the beginning of the case, but Judge Tom Brown rejected all five motions on Nov. 20, 2002. Defendants are asking the court to reconsider some of the same arguments, based on deposition testimony which they believe supports their position.
The court has not yet set a hearing date for the MBC’s five motions for summary judgment – one for each defendant – which were filed last August. The summary judgment motions ask the court to rule that the convention has legal standing to bring the suit for declaratory judgment against the agencies. The five motions also seek a ruling that the convention’s rights to elect trustees and approve charter changes are legally enforceable rights which the agencies cannot unilaterally change. A hearing date is expected to be set in March.
The defendant agencies have also filed five motions for summary judgment as well as their four motions to dismiss the lawsuit. The Feb. 26 hearing will take up only the motions to dismiss, since they deal with the court’s “subject matter jurisdiction" in the case. Then defense motions for summary judgment are likely to be set for hearing in March, at the same time as the MBC’s motions.
“All the defense motions to dismiss challenge the capacity of the churches to represent the convention," said Mike Whitehead , a Kansas City attorney who heads the MBC legal team. “The defendants argue that the convention must be represented in court by its members, and that its members are the messengers, not the affiliated churches. They say we must name some individual messengers as plaintiffs, not the six churches or the Executive Board. We disagree strongly, but if the court were to agree with defendants, we would simply ask for leave to amend the petition, and to name the pastors of the six churches as additional plaintiffs. They were also messengers to the 2001 convention."
Whitehead said the deposition process will continue while the defense legal maneuverings proceed.
In December and January, the MBC legal team has completed depositions of Larry Johnson, president of The Baptist Home, and Frank Shock, president of Windermere. MBC attorneys have also produced MBC witnesses to give depositions, including Gerald Davidson, pastor, First Baptist, Arnold, and former MBC president; Gary Taylor, pastor, First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, former MBC president and current chairman of the Legal Task Force; David Tolliver , MBC president and pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs David Clippard , MBC executive director; and Kenny Qualls, MBC associate executive director.
“We expect to start the next level of deposition witnesses this month," Whitehead said. “This will include people related to the Windermere development and debt load." Whitehead listed as probable deponents Jim Hill, former MBC executive director, Jerry Hill, Jim Hill’s brother and RDI attorney; Bill Jester, RDI owner; Vernon Armitage pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church , Liberty , and a member of the Windermere board of trustees, and others." Whitehead said.
“We will also expect to depose bank officers from Allegiant Bank to review the basis for its decision to extend an 18.75 million dollar line of credit to Windermere."