By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
Jefferson City — The Missouri Baptist Convention can file a third amended petition in its ongoing legal struggle with five institutions Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown ruled on May 9.
The ruling was the latest in the MBC's legal proceedings that began when the convention took action against Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University and the Missouri Baptist Foundation on Aug. 13, 2002.
Trustees for The Baptist Home changed the entity's charter in 2000 to allow them to elect their own board members. In the past, messengers to each MBC annual meeting elected trustees.
The other four institutions made similar charter changes in 2001.
At the May 9 hearing, MBC attorney John Holstein pointed out the convention requested the amended petition as a result of a March 7 court order to clarify the MBC's conspiracy claim against the five entities.
Factual allegations in the petition had not been "significantly" altered, "except what has occurred in the last year," Holstein claimed.
Defense attorneys argued that the amended petition would require more depositions and additional information gathering.
Kurt Odenwald, an attorney for Windermere, Word&Way and The Home, noted the paragraph about conspiracy in the original petition had been expanded to 77 paragraphs in the third amended petition. The broadened conspiracy theory now includes people and actions from 1998 and 1999, which the defense claimed goes beyond the lawsuit's scope.
Odenwald also pointed out that the original proceeding focused on a breach of contract claim. The amended petition also includes a claim that the entities have failed to fulfill covenant agreements.
Judge Brown extended time to collect information and to take depositions for an additional five months.
He directed attorneys to file motions that deal with specific questions of law within 30 days. Such dispositive motions include membership issues such as, do the entity corporations have members, and if so, who would be considered a member?
Judge Brown set a hearing for Oct. 2 to set a trial date. He will set additional hearing dates on dispositive motions as they are filed.
At the May 9 hearing, the judge denied a request by MBC attorney Michael Whitehead to unseal all materials defense attorneys have marked as confidential. Judge Brown said lawyers could challenge specific material individually. (05-18-06)