A sexual molestation civil suit against former Texas state lawmaker and judge Paul Pressler has been removed to U.S. District Court, but the plaintiff’s attorney has filed a motion to remand the case back to state court.
Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt will hear on Monday attorney Daniel Shea’s motion to send the suit back to Harris County District Court. Shea represents Gareld Duane Rollins, who alleges that Pressler raped and molested him over the course of 35 years.
Seven other defendants are named in the suit, including Pressler’s wife, law partner and churches he’s attended. The suit alleges the other defendants helped cover up the molestation.
The 87-year-old Pressler has vigorously denied the allegations.
Shea filed on April 3 the first of what he said will be a series of affidavits that corroborate Rollins’ claims. The affidavit identified a married man in his 50s from New York who says Pressler groped him as a teenager. The man said that during a retreat in Houston in the 1970s, Pressler asked to share a bunk with the then 17-year-old and rubbed his feet against his. The man also claims that Pressler groped him in a sauna at Houston Oaks Country Club.
The case was removed to federal court on March 12 following pleas to the jurisdiction by defendants Southern Baptist Convention and First Baptist Church of Houston on Feb. 21. They argued the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1871, required that the case be sent to federal court.
But Shea argues in his motion to remand the case to state court, that Texas law is adequate to determine the claims laid out in the suit. Those claims include a breach of fiduciary duty, assault by offensive physical contact and conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy, and negligence.
“I think it’s going to go back to state court, but that’s just my supposition,” Shea told The Texas Monitor.
Edward Tredennick, attorney for Pressler and his wife, Nancy, argued the statute of limitations had passed. Shea countered that because the alleged molestation began when Rollins was 14 and a minor, the statute of limitations was delayed and the suit should move forward.
The Presslers were set for a deposition on the issue of the statute of limitations on March 13, but the case was removed the previous day.
Rollins seeks $1 million in damages in the suit that also names as defendants Pressler’s former law partner Jared Woodfill, Second Baptist Church of Houston and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president, the Rev. Paige Patterson.
Rollins and his mother, Margaret D. Duryea, sued Pressler over similar allegations in 2014 in Dallas County District Court, with Shea as their representative. That case was settled and the proceedings sealed.
Johnny Kampis can be reached at [email protected].