Friday, August 11, 2017

Pre-Trial Conference August 10

I attended the pre-trial conference for case BC487079 in LA Superior Court Department 32 yesterday morning. This is the damage suit brought by the legal rector, wardens, and vestry of the St Mary of the Angels parish against, Mrs Bush, the ACA, the ACA Diocese of the West, and other individuals connected with the seizure and illegal occupation of the property between 2012 and 2016.

The session was short. The subject was to be new counsel obtained by all the defendants but Mrs Bush -- in granting Mr Lancaster's motion to be relieved as counsel for all but Mrs Bush (non-payment was given as a reason, but Mr Lancaster may have been ethically constrained from specifying the real reason), the judge required him to notify the former clients of the August 10 hearing and that either their new counsel or they personally were required to attend.

Nobody showed up, either as counsel or in person, for any of the defendants. Mr Lengyel-Leahu told Judge Murphy that no one had contacted him indicating they were new counsel. Judge Murphy, who has a certain "stuff happens" outlook combined with a slightly morbid sense of humor, simply said, thumbing through the paperwork, "Well, it seems like everyone was properly served." He moved the final status conference for the upcoming late November trial up to October 26 to give any defendants who might eventually show up a little more time.

From Judge Murphy's facial expression, though, it wasn't hard to determine that he thought the proceedings were now going to wind up as a default judgment, with none of the defendants showing up for the trial and the judge then simply awarding the damages claimed by the rector, wardens, and vestry. Stuff happens, and it's kinda funny, at least if you look at it the way you sometimes have to.

I believe Fr Kelley and counsel for the vestry see things pretty much the same way. They believe, as far as I can see, that the Bush group and the ACA still expect to prevail on their appeal of Judge Strobel's 2015 decision, in which case the default judgment would be set aside. My own view, based on how badly things have gone for them for much of the history here, is that the chances of this happening approach zero.

It's hard to avoid thinking that all these defendants, whose interests differ and who should probably never have been represented by a single counsel, are still taking their orders from Mrs Bush, who is not an attorney, and whose counsel, still Mr Lancaster, is representing only Mrs Bush's interests. That none should engage new counsel and none appeared at the conference strongly suggests a coordinated approach. Maybe they think Mrs Bush is saving them money.

If you look at it a certain way, it's kinda funny.