NAMB and McRaney enter stipulation agreement that advances discovery. New trial date set.
Discovery moves closer in Will McRaney’s defamation and torturous interference lawsuit against the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). NAMB’s attorneys agreed to not withhold discovery based on some of its remaining claims. The agreement was set out in a Joint Stipulation filed February 9, 2022, with the federal court in Mississippi.
According to the agreement, “Pursuant to the Opinion and Judgment by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit filed July 16, 2020 (mandate issued December 3, 2020) [Dkt. No. 68], and this Court’s Order Denying Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as Premature and Directing the Completion of Discovery [Dkt. No. 93], NAMB agrees it will not withhold any discovery responses on the basis of its First Amendment defenses or objections, including in response to discovery requests served by Plaintiff prior to the date of this Stipulation.”
In other words, NAMB agrees to abide by the Judge’s ruling of January 12, 2022. This moves discovery closer to happening.
Also, because NAMB has so far stalled discovery, the judge was forced to reschedule the trial date. According to the court, the trial is slated to start in April 2023. This date allows McRaney’s attorneys to gather evidence in discovery and prepare their case.
McRaney’s case reached this point after stops at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and even an appeal to the Supreme Court by NAMB. However, NAMB lost four straight arguments in a row. NAMB and Ezell lost in a ruling at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, requested and was denied an en banc hearing at the 5th Circuit, and then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States and was denied. Then in January, a judge in the Northern District of Mississippi denied NAMB’s request for summary judgment.
Every single day brings discovery closer—something Southern Baptist insiders say NAMB is desperate to avoid. The only questions now are how fast will NAMB offer McRaney a settlement and if Kevin Ezell survives as NAMB president until the SBC Annual Meeting.
It is only a matter of time until the truth is known. Then, Southern Baptists will be asking not if Ezell and NAMB are liable, but what did the trustees know and when did they know it?