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Both sides claim victory in Minuteman lawsuit

March 24, 2007|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist and his opponents within the anti-illegal-immigration group both claimed victory Friday after an Orange County Superior Court judge put Gilchrist back in charge of the organization's funds but indicated that those assets might soon be put into receivership.

Judge Randell L. Wilkinson wrote Thursday that the court found "serious issues concerning the credibility of the claims of both Jim Gilchrist and the defendants to control the affairs of the Minuteman Project."

Wilkinson will consider April 25 whether a court-appointed third party should manage the Minuteman Project's assets until the issue of who controls the organization is decided.

Gilchrist filed the lawsuit in February after three board members voted to oust him, alleging financial mismanagement. Gilchrist says the three board members had no voting rights.

The lawsuit has paralyzed the Minuteman Project, co-founded by Gilchrist, 58, a retired accountant concerned about illegal immigration. Gilchrist, of Aliso Viejo, attracted national attention when he drew more than 200 people to the border to watch for illegal crossers in April 2005.

On Friday, attorney Jim Lacy, who represents board members Marvin Stewart, Deborah Courtney and Barbara Coe, said the court decision "is a huge loss for Gilchrist.... Had he never filed the case, there would not be any possibility that the court would take control of the organization. Had he tried to work out these issues with my clients, he would have absolutely no vulnerability."

The judge also allowed Gilchrist's opponents to continue to list themselves as board members of the group.

Gilchrist's attorney, Mark Brown, said, "Ideally, we would have wanted to have a full preliminary injunction." However, he said, "this is an important victory. The defendants are prohibited from using the funds." He also said they couldn't use Minuteman stationery containing the printed signature of Gilchrist, one of the most recognizable names in the anti-illegal-immigration movement.

Gilchrist said the judge's decision "opened the door for us to move forward with a victory. Eventually, I will be the sole director of the Minuteman Project."

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