Relinquishing central privilege as EC prepares for second special meeting

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BAPTIST PRESS Report

NASHVILLE (BP) – Members of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee are scheduled to meet Tuesday (October 5) at 11:30 a.m. EDT in a special virtual meeting related to a third-party investigation into the BOI and its management of sexual abuse allegations. This will be the second meeting of the Committee in as many weeks since the regular meeting scheduled for September 20 and 21. The professional secrecy of the lawyer is the central question of the deliberation of the trustees.

The Sexual Abuse Task Force, appointed by SBC President Ed Litton, hired Guidepost Solutions to conduct the investigation. On September 21, EC trustees allocated up to $ 1.6 million for the task force to complete a public report that is due 30 days before the SBC 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim on June 14 and 15.

In a letter to directors from board members, comments from Houston-based attorney Mark Lanier were shared. Lanier is a Sunday School member and teacher at Champion Forest Baptist in Houston and has represented both Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, two of the architects of the conservative resurgence.

“The motion presented at the annual meeting implies that the lifting of solicitor-client privilege constitutes the best standards and practices. This couldn’t be further from the truth, ”Lanier wrote. “From the date of the motion until today, there has been no effort to support as the best standard and practice the general and prospective waiver of solicitor-client privilege. It’s not.”

Although not part of the EC legal team, Lanier is a seasoned lawyer with over 30 years of legal experience and is the founder of the Christian Trial Lawyers Association and the Lanier Theological Library. He has won over $ 20 billion in liability verdicts and personal claims throughout his legal career. Lawyers for Nashville-based Guenther, Jordan and Dallas-based Locke Lord provided legal advice to EC members and senior management.

Lanier wrote: “The exercise of privilege at the start of an investigation is particularly important, because once the privilege is lifted, it is lifted for all purposes and at any time. This is why he usually forfeits insurance coverage.

However, in a statement released Monday, the Sexual Abuse Task Force said “there is simply no way to determine if the risk will ever be realized, and there are several thresholds of evidence that should be reached before the insurance proceeds can be lost in any particular case. “

He also said that the working group is not asking for a general waiver from the EC. “No, the waiver of attorney-client privilege in the ‘messaging model’ is limited in both time and scope,” the statement said.

The working group underlined the scope of the investigation: “The period only extends between 2000 and June 2021.” The scope is also limited to “any allegation of abuse, mismanagement of abuse , abuse of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives ”.

The statement of the working group indicates that the investigation will only include staff and members of the BOI who acted or made decisions on behalf of the BOI during the period in question. The task force also wrote that “waiving solicitor-client privilege is best practice and is the only practice that will both access and flag all relevant information.”

“Guidepost, as can best be understood, claimed that blind waiver was good practice here because couriers indicated they wanted full transparency and blind waiver of privilege is the only way to achieve transparency. total, ”Lanier wrote. “… Litigation lawyers can always make strategic waivers if it is important to fairness or justice. However, this should never be done in a drastic way without the contribution of the litigator. “

As discussions raged online, concerns about both loss of insurance and waiver of lien have led some trustees to quit the board in recent days.

According to SBC EC President Rolland Slade, “… a handful of directors have resigned [since the Sept. 21 meeting] and, if the board votes to waive the privilege, I would expect a handful of others to do the same. “

Slade was added as a signatory – instead of EC President Ronnie Floyd – on an updated letter of commitment issued by the working group. As the meeting nears, Slade asks all Southern Baptists to “… continue to pray for us as we strive for these decisions.”

The meeting will be webcast at sbc.net/ec0921.


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