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LA Bishop Bruno responds to injunction

LA Bishop Bruno responds to injunction

Bishop of Los Angeles, J. Jon Bruno through his attorneys has responded to an injunction by a church Hearing Panel blocking the sale of the St James the Great property in Newport Beach.  In his response, he argues both that the process by which the injunction was created was unfair and prejudicial and that aside from process, the Hearing Panel has no authority in the matter anyway.

“Respondent, the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, appeals from and seeks an immediate stay of the Hearing Panel’ s June 16 , 2017, “Imposition of Sanctions” Order ” prohibiting Bishop Bruno from selling or conveying or contracting to sell or convey the St. James property” (sic) on the grounds that: (1) the order is outside the jurisdiction of the Hearing Panel; (2) the Hearing Panel did not give Respondent reasonable notice or a right to be heard regarding the sanction; and (3) the facts do not support a finding that Respondent was “disruptive, dilatory, or otherwise contrary to the integrity of the proceeding.””

 

On June 9th, one of the complainants, William Kroener, sent an email to the Hearing Panel and the Episcopal Church attorney stating his suspicion that a sale of the property was in the works and in a follow-up email on the 14th, offered proof that a sale was, in fact, pending.  The Hearing Panel president, The Rt Rev Herman Hollerith IV then notified Bruno and asked for an immediate response and any documents pertaining to the alleged sale.  Bruno delayed in providing the evidence requested due to a confidentiality agreement between him and the buyers.  After that agreement was amended, the requested documentation was given tot he Hearing Panel.

On the 17th, the Hearing Panel issued its injunction;

“The Hearing Panel has considered these matters and takes them extremely seriously.  If the Respondent has entered into a contract to sell, or sold, the St. James property before the Hearing Panel has decided the case, that conduct is disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding. The same applies to his failure to supply information concerning the alleged sale.         Canon TV.13 .9(a).

Acting under the authority of Canon IV.13.9(a), the Hearing Panel accordingly imposes the following sanctions on the Respondent, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corp Sole, or in any other capacity: Respondent is prohibited from selling or conveying or contracting to sell or convey the St. James property until further order of the Hearing Panel.

This Imposition of Sanctions is effective immediately.”

 

The sale contract appears to have been completed in November of last year, just two weeks after a Hearing Panel determined that Bishop Bruno should face a disciplinary hearing.  Though the property is owned by a Corp. Sole (which consists of the Bishop alone), the Diocesan Standing Committee was aware of and approved of the sale.  The Standing Committee has also written to the Hearing Panel expressing their support of Bishop Bruno in this matter.

“At a special meeting this afternoon, serving as your Council of Advice, the Standing Committee, in considering the Title IV Hearing Panel sanction recommitted itself to the decision made at its November 16, 2016, regular meeting. That is:

Acknowledging the Standing Committee has no canonical authority over Corporation Sole, the members of the Standing Committee, meeting on November 16, 2016, formally go on record and consent to the Bishop Diocesan to dispose of the consecrated Church property, whose title is legally held by Corporation Sole, and provide consent to the secularization and sale of the  Lido Isle real and  personal  property,  previously occupied by St. James the Great congregation.

Additionally, the Standing Committee expressed concern regarding whether the Hearing Panel has authority over the Bishop and Standing Committee of a Diocese regarding church property, specifically in this matter, since it is not one of the articulated alleged offenses levied against you.

By way of a unanimous motion, the Standing Committee members reaffirm their action regarding the sale of Lido Isle. The Standing Committee concurs with your decision and judgment that sale of this property is in the best interest of the Diocese of Los Angeles.”

 

In his response, Bruno is appealing the decision of the Hearing Panel regarding the sale set to close on July 3rd on three points;

The Hearing Panel’s Sanction is Outside the Jurisdiction of the Hearing Panel.
Title IV does not give the Hearing Panel jurisdiction to control disposition of Diocesan Property. The Bishop and Diocese have control over EDLA property. The Hearing Panel can place restrictions on a Bishop’ s ministry, recommend that the Presiding Bishop admonish, suspend or depose the Bishop or any combination of these. The Canons do not authorize the Hearing Panel to take control of property. In addition, the Canons do not give the Hearing Panel the right to manage congregations of the EDLA or grant them status that the EDLA has revoked

Respondent Did Not Have Reasonable Notice or Hearing  Before Imposition  of the Sanction
Given the Hearing Panel’s acceptance of and non-disclosure of Kroener’ s coercive and inappropriate prejudicial and argumentative comments to Beers, Kostel and the Panel on June 9 and the morning of June 14 th, the Hearing Panel’ s immediate demand that Respondent address Kroener’s allegations and arguments within 24 hours was unreasonable

Respondent Was Not Disruptive, Dilatory, and Did Not Act Contrary to the Integrity of the Proceeding.
 The only action of the Respondent cited in the Hearing Pane’ s imposition of sanctions is: “Respondent’ s counsel raised objections but did not address the substance of the Complainant’s allegation that there is a pending sale, or furnish any documentation.” First, if the Hearing Panel had considered and accepted the objections, the further response would be unnecessary and if the response was given, the objections would be waived. Second, the Respondent could not respond to the request to provide the pending sale information without violating the confidentiality agreement and potentially ending the sale thereby. Finally, the Respondent could not address the Hearing Panel’ s request without it resulting in a Diocese and TEC-wide distribution. Had the Respondent been given time to address these issues through a hearing and its objections, the Hearing Panel would have received a response.

 

The Hearing Panel has ordered Bruno to not sell the property and Bruno has maintained his stance that he is free to dispose of the property as he alone decides.  Now we await the response of the Hearing Panel and the status of the sale set to close next Monday.

 

Click here to read all the original documents (pdf)

 

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Professor Christopher Seitz

You can see my comment on the new thread. My point is that +Bruno may believe that whatever Title IV does will not affect his ability to win legally. That is, he knows exactly the distinction you aver here (as do I). What if he doesn’t care if he is inhibited by some TEC Panel? He is not a young man (I remember him from seminary) and if his goal is to win locally, then Title IV judgments may have no real bearing to him. This would also explain why he is so manifestly uncooperative. The main point is that Title IV cannot defeat a local Bishop within the context of the victory being sought locally. Sorry that wasn’t clearer to you.

Professor Christopher Seitz

If you are referring to me, you will need to read my comments more carefully. My point is that Title IV will require more in the way of constitutional change if the ‘national church’ wants it to stick. Courts look for a supremo. It has to be laid out very very clearly — see the RC church. TEC wants to incarnate a new polity for the purpose of resolving disputes and control; but struggles to get consent from bishops due to its longstanding historical character and self-identity.

Whether or not it is a “liberal tool” (your words), the point is, it isn’t working.

Eric Bonetti

Actually, the courts have no authority to consider Title IV, as it is purely an internal ecclesiastical matter. That is the case even when a plaintiff contends that there is a violation of the church constitution.

Perhaps you are conflating Title IV with the property litigation. There, conflicting Supreme Court precedents, which provide that non-ecclesiastical property matters must either defer to church authorities or be considered under neutral principles of law, combined with varying local approaches to titling real property, have led to mixed results, but the vast majority of cases ruling in favor of TEC. In addition, you have some facially bad decisions–the trial court decision in SC is ludicrous and nonsensical.

But these decisions have no bearing on Title IV, and there is no doubt that Title IV is the law of the land within The Episcopal Church. That is true despite some serious flaws in implementation, including the pressing need for education of intake officers and ajudicatories.

Eric Bonetti

Having just read the church attorney’s response to the +Bruno motion, I am further shocked and appalled by +Bruno’s actions.

The church attorney hit the nail on the head: We have here a rogue bishop. And to those who say that Title IV is unfair, or a liberal tool against conservative bishops, I say, “Read the brief.” The church attorney is calling a spade a spade, regardless of whether one considers +Bruno to be a liberal or not.

Jean Lall

I am far removed from this situation and cannot express an opinion on Bishop Bruno’s character, but I feel it would be better to let his behavior speak for itself rather than engaging in stereotyping. There must be a good many people (some of them Episcopalians) who have qualifications in criminology, experience in police work, degrees in physical education and/or a pro sports background who are not bullies. Let’s not insult them by making such assumptions.

Michael W. Murphy

I find the parallels between Episcopal Church canon law and state law disputes over real estate and Roman Catholic canon law and state law disputes over real estate. In both churches, large donors are conditioning their donations much like “donations” to the Franciscan order where a trustee owns the “donation” and allows the church to use the property. In many cases, this is what the donors to local church’s building funds intended.

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