Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

True Level Masonic Lodge #226 Inc v. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

April 3, 2018

TRUE LEVEL MASONIC LODGE #226, INC., GREGORY AUGUST, JOHNNIE L. JONES, MACK PRINCE DESHAY, AND ARTHUR C. MAYS, Appellants
v.
MOST WORSHIPFUL PRINCE HALL GRAND LODGE OF TEXAS AND JURISDICTIONS FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 133rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2013-59319

          Panel consists of Justices Higley, Massengale, and Lloyd.

          MEMORANDUMOPINION

          Michael Massengale Justice.

         This is an appeal from a declaratory judgment obtained by the statewide governing body of a Masonic lodge. Members and officers of True Level Lodge No. 226 attempted to surrender their charter and continue their activities under a similar name, operating from the same building with the same assets.

         Appellee Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and Jurisdictions Free and Accepted Masons sought a declaratory judgment to confirm the continuing existence of its constituent lodge, the ownership of its assets, and the right to use the name "True Level Lodge No. 226." After a jury trial, the trial court granted a motion for directed verdict, and it determined that the constituent lodge did not properly surrender its charter, so it continued to exist, and it was entitled to continued possession of all its property, as well as the use of the name "True Level Lodge No. 226" to the exclusion of appellant True Level Masonic Lodge No. 226, Inc.

         Gregory August, Johnnie L. Jones, Mack Prince Deshay, and Arthur C. Mays appealed, along with the independent lodge, raising three issues. In their first issue, they contend that the trial court's judgment is void because it violates the statute of frauds and includes a property description too vague to be implemented without the aid of extrinsic evidence. In their second issue, they argue that the court erred by determining that the original constituent lodge had a superior right to use the name "True Level Lodge No. 226." In their third issue, they assert that the court erred by admitting evidence of a witness's prior criminal record.

         We affirm.

         Background

         Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and Jurisdictions Free and Accepted Masons (the "Grand Lodge") is a nonprofit, benevolent organization formed in 1875 in Texas to regulate the practice of freemasonry, advance the moral and social interests of its members, and encourage charitable acts. True Level Lodge No. 226, the constituent lodge at issue in this dispute, was established in 1905 as a voluntary association, and in 1906 it became a local affiliate of the Grand Lodge. The relationship between the two entities is governed by the Grand Lodge's constitution, which established broad powers over its constituent lodges. The constitution establishes that constituent lodges are not independent entities. It further provides that all property of a constituent lodge is deemed to be held in trust for the benefit of the Grand Lodge. When a constituent lodge dissolves or ceases to function as a lodge, its ritual items, money, and dues receivable will be collected by the Grand Master or his authorized representative. Furniture, fixtures, and other personal property may be sold to satisfy debts, if any, and remaining proceeds will "accrue to the Grand Lodge."

         The Grand Lodge's constitution requires that constituent lodges give their membership ten days' written notice before a vote on any "proposition that affects the entire membership such as adopting By-Laws, consolidating with another lodge, moving or building a hall, levying assessments on membership, [or] buying or selling property." Under the constitution, the Grand Lodge retains "full authority to approve or disapprove such transaction as each Local Lodge is a subsidiary or integral part of the Grand Lodge and as such, Grand Master has full authority in the premises." The Grand Master or the Grand Lodge also has "full and final authority" to determine whether a constituent lodge has ceased to function due to "inactivity, demise, or dissolution."

         In April 2013, the Grand Lodge asked all constituent lodges to identify lodge-owned property and provide an Employee Identification Number (EIN) or other information indicating that each lodge was operating as a nonprofit organization. True Level Lodge No. 226 refused to provide the information, responding that its ownership of land was a matter of "public record, " and its "land or property" was "not to be used or included in documentation to secure or obtain any loans or financial gains without the express written consent" of the members or officers. Among its assets, True Level Lodge No. 226 owned four parcels of real property, including a lodge building at 4212 Lyons Avenue, which was acquired in 1952. The remaining real property was comprised of the properties commonly known as: 4201 Lyons Avenue, 4200 New Orleans, and 1414 Copeland Street, all of which are located in Houston, Texas. True Level Lodge No. 226 also owned a van. According to the appellants, the Grand Master, Wilbert M. Curtis, told August, who was then the leader of True Level Lodge No. 226, that it had three days to comply with the request or surrender its charter.

         With less than ten days' notice, August convened a meeting, and the members decided to refuse the request. August and Johnnie L. Jones, then-secretary of True Level Lodge No. 226, wrote to the Grand Lodge, saying that concerns about lack of confidentiality drove their decision not to disclose the EIN. They declared that Article XVI, § 22 of the constitution was not binding upon them or their lodge, and they asserted sole ownership over all property belonging to True Level Lodge No. 226. Finally, they declared that their charter had been returned by mail and they intended to fully and immediately sever ties with the Grand Lodge.

         When the Grand Lodge received the charter, the Grand Master summoned the members of True Level Lodge No. 226 to a meeting in Fort Worth regarding the attempted surrender of the charter, explaining that the lodge had not notified the membership or surrendered the charter properly as set forth in the constitution. The Grand Master voided the actions previously taken by True Level Lodge No. 226. Only one member attended the meeting, and he paid dues and continued his membership. August, Mays, Jones, and Deshay were expelled for "unmasonic behavior." Among other things, this behavior included entering into a repair contract, which resulted in the imposition of a lien on the lodge building, without the prior approval of the Grand Master. The Grand Lodge later invited those members of True Level Lodge No. 226 who wished to remain affiliated to pay dues and elect new officers. Thus, the Grand Lodge maintained that True Level Lodge No. 226 continued to exist without August, Mays, Jones, and Deshay.

         Unbeknownst to the Grand Lodge, in October 2011, August, Mays, Jones, Deshay, and others had formed a new entity called True Level Masonic Lodge #226, Inc. (the "independent lodge"). After their expulsion, August, Mays, Jones, and Deshay continued their communal and fraternal activities, operating as "True Level Masonic Lodge, " "True Level Lodge No. 226, " or "True Level Lodge 226, " using the same lodge building and lodge assets as they had before their expulsion. They later became affiliated with ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.