KANSAS CITY – A Missouri appeals court on Sept. 18 dismissed an appeal by the Missouri Baptist Foundation, sending the case back to the Cole County Circuit court to meet certain procedural requirements and to correct certain drafting errors.
Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) legal counsel Michael Whitehead said the 12-page appeal opinion was mostly encouraging, as far as it went.
“The Court did not say it disagreed with Judge Wilson’s ruling on the merits, which was strongly in favor of the MBC,” he said. “They quoted several sections of the forceful trial opinion in their factual background. They simply said the judgment had some drafting errors and omissions which need to be addressed by the new trial judge before the appeals court can give it final review.”
Whitehead said the MBC legal team will review the appellate opinion and decide what steps of action to take to bring this matter back to Judge Byron Kinder, the current judge assigned to the case.
“The appeals court wants Judge Kinder to set an amount of attorneys’ fees which the Foundation should pay to the MBC at the end of the case. We will be glad to cooperate with the trial court in expediting a ruling on the amount of fees. We will provide a proposal for a fee amount, and documents to support it, so that the court may award whatever amount he deems to be reasonable, in the corrected judgment.”
Whitehead said there were other sentences in the judgment which may need to be rephrased or supplemented in order to comply with the appeals court opinion. Once Judge Kinder signs a new corrected judgment, Whitehead said he expects the Foundation will again file an appeal to the court of appeals in Kansas City.
“It will take some additional time to get a new judgment back in front of the appeals court, but I expect that Judge Kinder will want to expedite this as much as we do,” Whitehead said.
“We would have preferred that the appeals court had simply upheld Judge Wilson’s order,” said Randy Comer, chairman of the Agency Restoration Group for the MBC and director of missions, Barry Baptist Association. “We regret the delay, but we respect the finding of the court of appeals. We will do whatever we can to cooperate with the trial judge to act quickly and to make the next judgment final and appealable.
“Then we will ask the Kansas City court of appeals to uphold the merits of the trial court judgment,” Comer said. “Nothing in the opinion today changes our expectation that the appeals court will ultimately uphold the trial judge’s strong ruling in favor of the MBC, returning the Foundation to the MBC family.”