Judge Rules for SMU over Jurisdiction

March 25, 2021 | by Sam Hodges

Judge Rules for SMU over Jurisdiction

A judge has ruled for Southern Methodist University over the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church in a lawsuit over who controls the Dallas school.

The jurisdictional conference sued SMU in December 2019, soon after SMU’s trustee board changed the school’s articles of incorporation, eliminating rights spelled out for the jurisdictional conference, including approval of trustee appointments and real estate transactions.  

The jurisdictional conference sought a jury trial, but the proceedings never got that far.

After more than a year of lawyers’ filings and counter filings, leading to a court record of thousands of pages, Dallas Civil District Court Judge Maricela Moore last month dismissed by summary judgment the jurisdictional conference’s remaining claims.

Both the jurisdictional conference and Texas Conference Bishop Scott Jones, who intervened on the jurisdictional conference’s side, are appealing their lower court defeat to the Dallas-based Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas.

The lawsuit attracted media attention in its early days, then proceeded quietly. At United Methodist News’ request, SMU issued a statement about Moore’s ruling:

“SMU is pleased that on February 8, the Dallas County District Court of Texas dismissed the legal action against the University by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church.

“That ruling and other previous ones make it clear that the SMU Board of Trustees has the sole authority to govern the affairs of the University and its operations in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws.”


Sam Hodges is a staff journalist with UMNews.