Judge to hear arguments on amended lawsuit Aug. 7 - Word&Way

Judge to hear arguments on amended lawsuit Aug. 7

Jefferson City — A hearing has been set for arguments on a fourth amended version of the current lawsuit between the Missouri Baptist Convention and five formerly affiliated agencies.

MBC attorneys presented a fourth amended petition at the request of Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown. He will hear arguments for the new version at 1 p.m. on Aug. 7 in Jefferson City.

Legal proceedings began four years ago when the convention took action against Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University and the Missouri Baptist Foundation.

Trustees for The Baptist Home changed the institution's charter in 2000 to allow them to elect their own board members. The other four institutions made similar charter changes in 2001.

In the past, messengers to each MBC annual meeting elected those trustees.

Judge Brown requested changes to the MBC's legal action at a June 27 hearing. In its lawsuit, the convention charges all five institutions with breach of contract.

At the June hearing, the judge ruled the MBC had to file a new petition to specify which provisions of the convention's governing documents and the covenant relationship with each the institutions have breached.

The fourth amended petition includes extensive quotes from the convention's constitution, bylaws, and business and financial plan as support for the MBC's claims.

It particularly points out all references to election of trustees and the convention's plan for distribution of funds.

The petition also emphasizes portions of the documents that claim that the convention has the right to approve proposed changes or amendments to the entities' charters.

As in past petitions, the convention asks the court to require the entities to rescind charter changes.

If the court rules that the changes stand, the MBC asks for the return of funds given to the institutions in the year in which they changed their charters and to return any assets assigned to them, including Windermere's property.

Although former petitions have asked for attorneys fees and court costs as part of the settlement, the MBC now seeks punitive damages from the entities.

The new document also includes counts of conspiracy — claims Judge Brown already has dismissed. He ruled for MBU at a hearing on June 12 and for the other four defendants on June 27.

On June 27, the judge noted that entity heads and chairpersons "did not constitute a majority of any board."

When asked if restated conspiracy charges could be included in the new petition, Judge Brown said he would "take them under advisement."

However, he designated his ruling on the conspiracy charges as a final judgment, which would allow the convention to appeal his decision now rather than waiting for a decision on the entire case.

MBC attorneys indicated they may appeal if Judge Brown does not allow the conspiracy charges in the amended petition. (07-27-06)