(CN) – A Texas appeals court overturned an order that would have compelled George W. Bush to give a deposition in a property dispute over his presidential library at Southern Methodist University. The lower court’s order compelling Bush’s deposition was unprecedented, as no sitting or former president had ever been compelled to testify in a state court proceeding.
SMU began buying condominium units in the neighboring University Gardens complex in 1998. The charter of the complex provided that with agreement of 75 percent of the aggregate ownership interest in the units, the condominium regime could be terminated and the entire property sold.
By 2005, SMU had acquired 97 percent of the units and, by resolution passed at a homeowners’ association meeting, voted to terminate the regime. The complex was torn down in 2006.
Forced to sell his condo through these events, attorney Gary Vodicka sued SMU, saying the university lied about its intentions for the properties. He says the properties were acquired with the library project in mind, and that the complex was allowed to fall into disrepair so it could be demolished.
In overturning the order, the 5th District Court of Appeals said the case did not meet the standard for presidential testimony and that “it appears Vodicka himself is unclear as to why he needs the deposition of President Bush.”
“As the federal courts have recognized, former presidents may be required to give testimony in some cases,” wrote Justice Molly Francis. “But these courts have also sought to exercise this power in a way that would be least damaging to the Presidency or onerous to the particular individual occupying the Office, to the extent that this was possible and consistent with the rights of the litigant who was in need of such testimony.
“Even if real parties in interest had shown President Bush had testimony that was material as tested by a ‘meticulous standard’ relevant to a Presidential deposition (which they did not), they still failed to make the required showing of necessity for the President’s testimony.”
SMU attorney Mark Lanier said Vodicka turned down $1 million to drop the case. Lanier said he believes the lawsuit was an attempt to get more money from the school; Vodicka said he wanted his property back. Vodicka said he will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
“I don’t care whether he is the president, the former president or a garbage collector,” Vodicka told The Associated Press. “He … participated in the most significant discussions regarding where his library will be located.”