Thursday, July 27, 2017
Court of Appeal Declares:
Judge Bowick Issued Improper Turnover Order to Nuns
Appeals Court Finds, in Case Involving Archdiocese’s Sale of Mansion to Katy Perry, There Was No Authority To Require Books, Records and Assets of a Religious Institute to Be Relinquished by Intervenors
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Above is the entrance to the eight-acre mansion at 3431-41 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz which the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles wants to sell to singer Katy Perry for $14.5 million.
The Court of Appeal for this district, acting in a case in which a small group of elderly nuns is opposing the sale to pop star Katy Perry of a mansion in which their convent had been located, has voided an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie M. Bowick that the two nuns who have intervened in the case turn over books, records, and assets of an institute to the archdiocese.
A broad controversy exists as to whether members of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary had the power to sell the Los Feliz estate to restaurateur Dana Hollister for $15.5 million or whether the corporation known as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles is the true owner, with power to convey the property to Perry.
Despite the appellant in the case being listed in the caption as “Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles,” the corporation, and not Archbishop Jose Gomez, is the litigant. That corporation and other entities brought their suit against Hollister for declaratory relief and to quiet title.
(Although the price Hollister is willing to pay is $1 million higher than the amount Perry has offered, the archdiocese’s deal with the singer is for an all-cash payment.)
Two Nuns Intervene
Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, who are directors of the institute that made the purported sale to Hollister, intervened. They are opposed to selling to Perry, in particular.
“In selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church,” Sister Catherine Rose Holzman wrote to the archdiocese on May 22, 2015.
Sisters Catherine Rose Holzman, second left, and Rita Callanan, center, are escorted by businesswoman Dana Hollister, right, out of Los Angeles Superior Court on July 30, 2015.
In a June 29, 2015 Los Angeles Times column, Steve Lopez wrote:
“The nuns knew the archbishop had lined up a buyer who was supposed to be a famous performer, but the name didn’t mean anything to the sisters, who range in age from 77 to 88….
“So Sister Rita did a little research on the Internet.
“ ‘Well, I found Katy Perry and I found her videos and...if it’s all right to say, I wasn’t happy with any of it,’ said Sister Rita, who told me she would rather not elaborate on her concerns as to whether Perry is a suitable candidate to live in a convent.”
After the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary adjudication, the nuns sought a continuance so they could conduct discovery. Bowick denied the continuance, and on May 2, 2016, summarily adjudicated the ownership of the property in favor of the plaintiffs.
On May 12, acting on an ex parte motion, Bowick ordered the intervenors to turn over to the plaintiffs the books, records, and assets of the institute, of which they were directors. (The membership of the institute was now down to five nuns.)
Singer Katy Perry is seen in concert. Two nuns are opposing the sale of a mansion to her.
The Court of Appeal on Sept. 23, issued an alternative writ directing the trial court to vacate the summary adjudication order and give the sisters time to conduct discovery, or show cause why a peremptory writ of mandate should not issue. On Sept. 29, Bowick vacated her May 2, 2016 orders.
On March 14, 2017, Bowick again granted summary adjudication in favor of the plaintiffs.
What was decided by Div. Four, in an unpublished opinion filed late Tuesday, was that the turnover order to Sisters Rita and Catherine was invalid.
Justice Thomas Willhite characterized the appeal as a “narrow” one, in a “complex” case. He wrote:
“[T]he turnover order improperly granted relief that Plaintiffs had not requested in their complaint, against parties who were not named as defendants in the complaint. But there is a more immediate reason why the turnover order must be vacated: it was premised on findings made in a summary adjudication ruling that was vacated. Although, as Plaintiffs note, the trial court subsequently conducted a new hearing on Plaintiffs’ renewed motion for summary adjudication and entered a new order granting that motion, that order has been stayed and is presently before this court on a petition for writ of mandate. Therefore, we reverse the order directing the Intervening Sisters to turn over the books, records, and assets of the Institute.”
The plaintiffs contended that the order was related to the issues raised by the complaint, in particular whether the archdiocese has the authority to act on behalf of the institute and whether the sisters had the power to sell its assets.
“In making this argument,” Willhite said, “Plaintiffs ignore the fact the entire focus of their complaint was to void the sale of the Property to Hollister and to seek damages from Hollister.”
He noted that the complaint did not seek a declaration that the archdiocese has authority over the institute and did not seek a mandatory injunction against the nuns.
“Indeed, the complaint does not mention the Institute’s books, records, or assets, nor does it seek any relief against the Intervening Sisters, who are not named as defendants. Similarly, the summary adjudication motion did not address the Institute’s books, records, or assets, nor did it seek any relief with regard to those items.”
The case is Callahan v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, B275366.
Eric M. George of Browne George Ross, along with Shiff Hardin, Amy M. Rubenstein and John N. Scholnick, argued on behalf of the nuns. J. Michael Hennigan, Robert W. Mockler and Kirk D. Dillman of McKool Smith Hennigan represented the archdiocese.
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