Appeals court hears MBC appeal of Windermere

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) attorneys on March 3 asked an appeals court to reverse a trial judge’s refusal last April to permit a jury trial in MBC’s decade-long effort to recover Windermere Baptist Conference Center (WBCC).

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District heard oral arguments in a Springfield courtroom that was packed with spectators, in spite of icy road conditions across the state.

Attorney Michael Whitehead attended and Michael Blanton argued for the MBC, while attorneys Eric Walter and Michael Robertson argued for Windermere and James Hill. Two other attorneys for various lenders also spoke briefly.

The panel was comprised of presiding judge Nancy Rahmeyer, as well as Judges William Fisher and Daniel Scott. MBC was allowed the first 15 minutes to answer the judges’ questions, and then all defendants were allowed a combined total of 15 minutes, which they divided among themselves. MBC then had 5 minutes for rebuttal.

“The judges were very familiar with the case,” Whitehead said after the hearing. “We are pleased that they were so engaged. They asked the right questions. I hope our answers helped them to understand our legal position. We are simply asking for jury trial so that all the facts of this case may be made public.”

Whitehead said a decision is likely within two to three months.

Windermere is one of five former MBC entities that broke away from the MBC in 2000 and 2001. After months of seeking a non-judicial resolution, MBC filed a petition in Cole County circuit court trying to recover the corporations, and in 2006 a separate petition in Camden County seeking to recover the Windermere land.