The Summary Judgment hearing of the Blanco Memorial Highway Post 352, The American Legion, Department of Texas, vs. Board of Trustees of the Blanco Independent School District, and J. Buck Ford, Superintendent case was brought before District Judge Dan Mills on Friday, December 13. Those in attendance who looked for finality in the case will have to wait for another day; the Summary Judgment was not heard and the parties agreed to attempt mediation.
Attorneys Daniel Burns and Paul Hunn, representing Blanco ISD, filed a motion for summary judgment (a judgment determined without a full trial) however, Tex and Chelita Riley, attorneys for the American Legion, told Judge Mills that they had filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. According to District Clerk Debby Elsbury, there was no record of the filing; since it was not on the docket, Judge Mills said it could not be heard on Friday, but said that it could be filed and placed on the court’s calendar for another day.
While considering whether or not to move forward with the hearing, Judge Mills asked if the case was subject to the Statute of Frauds if there was no documentation of a contract. (Definition: A statute requiring certain contracts to be in writing and signed by the parties bound by the contract. The purpose is to prevent fraud and other injury. The most common types of contracts to which the statute applies are contracts that involve the sale or transfer of land, and contracts that cannot be completed within one year. - Cornell University Law School).
Hunn said they were ready to move forward on the summary judgment, and had received no notice of the plaintiff's intention of filing a counter-motion. A lack of communication from the Legion's attorneys had been a consistent problem throughout the proceedings, according to Hunn.
Hunn offered to allow the hearing to be put on hold, suggesting that they try mediation. Tex Riley countered that the defendant’s position behind the allegations is that it is illegal (for the Legion to be on school grounds) and therefore mediation would not change that. Hunn replied that that if the plaintiffs did not want mediation, then they were prepared to move forward with presenting the summary judgment.
After some further discussion, Judge Mills suggested Chuck Lacallade, a lawyer from Kingsland that has a lot of experience in real estate law and mediation, to hear the mediation. This was in accordance with the defense’s request that the mediation be done outside of Blanco County. Both parties agreed to Judge Mill’s suggestion and were given sixty days to mediate. All discovery was ordered to stop within that time.
Riley asked whether or not the entire school board would be present at mediation. It was agreed that Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford will represent the school, along with counsel, and there will also be representatives from the school's insurance company there. Hunn said that they have received settlement guidelines from the school board to work with and before any decisions were made, everything would be brought before the school board.
American Legion Commander Ted Weeks will be the American Legion representative along with counsel. Recommendations for resolution will be brought back before both groups before a final decision can be made. Both parties will be able to re-file for Summary Judgment if mediation is unsuccessful.
“The District intends to comply with the order, and hopes to reach a resolution,” the district said in a prepared statement.
The American Legion issued this statement: “[The American Legion] looks forward to a timely mediation within the next sixty days in a good faith effort to resolve this conflict while pursuing their rights.”
Editor’s Note: After the December 13 hearing of the American Legion vs. Blanco ISD lawsuit, additional information was made available to Blanco County News. It is as follows:
During the hearing held on Friday, December 13, attorneys for the American Legion, Tex and Chelita Riley informed the court that they had filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. At the hearing, the record of the filing was not immediately found, however, since that time, it was verified that the motion was filed with the District Clerk in Blanco on October 29, 2013, as indicated by the office’s date and time stamp. Along with the filing, court records show that the hearing was also set for December 13 on the motion. In addition, an amendment to the motion was filed on November 21, 2013 with District Clerk, Debby Elsbury. An amended Notice of Hearing Setting was also filed that day.
During the hearing on December 13, Paul Hunn, attorney for the school district, told the court that he had not received notice of the filings. According to an Amended Certificate of Service filed with the court, the plaintiff’s attorneys were unable to serve the notices of the motions via fax after numerous attempts, and subsequently emailed both Paul Hunn and Daniel Burns a copy of both filings and the notice of hearing on October 29. In addition, the filings were mailed on November 1. Records indicate that the amended motion filed on November 21 was faxed to the defense on November 19.