UPDATE: Presiding Bishop places Partial Restriction on Bishop Bruno

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UPDATE: Church attorney calls for deposing Bishop Bruno and forensic audit of the “Corp Sole” Read it here.

 

Press Release from Office of Public Affairs

 

[June 29, 2017] Today, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, has placed a “Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop” on the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Signed by the Presiding Bishop, the Partial Restriction is effective immediately and is a temporary measure only, to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process, until it is concluded. This partial and temporary restriction does not “express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.”

The text of the Partial Restriction follows:

Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop

In recent days, I have learned of actions that, in my view, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church.  I have learned that, earlier this year, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, entered into a contract for sale of property (the “St. James property”) that is central to a disciplinary matter now pending under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, in which Bishop Bruno is the Respondent. According to Bishop Bruno’s submissions in that disciplinary matter, the contract for sale of the St. James property sets the closing date as July 3, 2017.

Bishop Bruno’s actions and intentions regarding an earlier attempted sale of the St. James property are currently under review in the pending disciplinary matter. I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process. The secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken adds to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.

Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process and, thereby, the good order and welfare of the Church, and pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of his ministry until the pending Title IV matter has been finally resolved:

During the period of the restriction, the Bishop, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from closing on the sale of the St. James property, or otherwise selling or conveying the property or contracting to sell the property, or, in any way assisting in the sale or conveyance of the property.

This restriction is effective immediately. Nothing in this restriction is intended to express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.

This document shall be served upon Bishop Bruno today and shall inform him of his right to have any objections to this restriction heard pursuant to Canon IV.7.

(The Most Rev.) Michael Bruce Curry
XXVII Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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37 Responses to "UPDATE: Presiding Bishop places Partial Restriction on Bishop Bruno"
  1. I am glad to see that ++Curry is taking the matter seriously and is exercising his canonical rights to prevent potential injustice.

    If nothing else, we should all be glad that the people of St. James the Great still want anything to do with The Episcopal Church. I would not blame anyone in that congregation for throwing up their hands in disgust.

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  2. The real question is, apart from a general moral evaluation that +Bruno is off the plantation, what actual role does the PB have? Everyone can cheer him on, but materially does it bring anything to heel in legal terms re: corporate sole sovereignty in LA?

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  3. A corporate sole has no legal sovereignty, but is a one-person corporate entity held, in this case, by a church officeholder. When +Bruno leaves office, his successor immediately acquires the same bundle of legal rights and obligations as he held. That said, because the Corp Sole comprises whoever is the canonically lawful bishop of LA, it cannot act in a manner inconsistent with church canons. Moreover, if +Bruno is removed from office, which appears increasingly likely given his conduct, he no longer is the Corp Sole and no longer has any legal authority over assets held by Corp. So, just as the PB has canonical authority over +Bruno, so too does he or she have canonical authority over the Corp Sole.

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  4. My point is that +Bruno obviously wants to sell the property and believes that TEC cannot stop him due to his local position legally. Has no legal sovereignty? Title IV governs ecclesiastical life, which courts will not interrogate.

    I am not agreeing with +Bruno. My point is that Title IV has sought to give supremo authority to a PB without the commensurate work on rewriting the constitution. This gap needs to be closed. Carrying around a metropolitan cross is a nice snappy liturgical gesture, but +Bruno does not believe it has teeth.

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    • I doubt +Bruno believes that the larger church has no legal claim to the property. First, he successfully litigated that very issue. Second, the Corp Sole audit report, while hardly a model of transparency, recites both case law and canon law in its assertion that the Dennis Canon applies to assets held be Corp Sole. Thus, +Bruno would get laughed out of court if he tried that line of argument.

      This is merely a case of someone who is used to having his way.

      What I would like to know is what is the LLC that Corp Sole apparently controls? It is reflected in the Corp Sole audit report, but with very little disclosure beyond that.

      Given that an LLC typically is a strategy to limit liability, and often is used to conceal actual ownership, I am curious indeed to know what is going on there. Or, as the church attorney noted, something surely does not pass the sniff test.

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  5. Christopher Seitz makes a good point. The PB can inhibit Bruno, and depose him. But oversight of Bruno's management of the temporalities is a different matter.

    What I have not seen discussed is how California charity law might come into play. The Diocese, and the Corp. Sole, are charities, and as such there is a public interest in their management and financial dealings (cf. the investigation of the Trump foundations by the NY Attorney General for allegations of self-dealing and use of funds for non-charitable purposes), The Church Attorney hints at this in his suggestion for a forensic audit, but perhaps it is time to turn the whole affair over to California authorities.

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  6. Speaking as a retired attorney, yes, the California Attorney General does in fact have standing to bring a civil action against those responsible for abuse of a non-profit corporation when it uses its assets for improper purposes. As to whether private parties have standing, I'd have to research that. A case could be made out that the people who donated the land and money to Saint James never intended those assets to be converted to cash for ministry elsewhere. This is definitely an avenue to be explored.

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  7. "The PB can inhibit Bruno, and depose him. But oversight of Bruno's management of the temporalities is a different matter."

    And he is not just grandstanding...he knows this.

    The present Title IV feint needs constitutional backing up within TEC for courts to say none of our business and defer.

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    • Again, the courts cannot and will not adjudicate a claim that the church -- or any church -- has violated its own constitution. They are prohibited from doing so by the US constitution.

      Moreover, Title IV explicitly addresses failure to safeguard assets.

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  8. The property was originally donated by a company to Dio LA with the restriction that it was to be used for only a church building of some purpose. To this point it was always the home for a congregation. However, a few years back Bishop Bruno met with the successor company of the original donor company and requested that the company remove the restriction. He finished the negotiations with the assurance that would be done. However, when he went about selling the building the first time in 2015, he found out that the successor company went back on their word and did not follow through with removing the restriction. So the first sale failed.

    He sued the successor company for breach of promise or something similar and must have won if he has now agreed to sell the property again.

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  9. You don't understand the point. If the TEC constitution is crystal clear, courts will say that it is not interfering when it rules in favor of TEC. If it is not clear, they will say they cannot side with arguments claiming it has this manner of hierarchy. And this is exactly what has happened in Illinois, SC and TX, in the most recent rulings.

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    • Again, you are conflating the property litigation with issues involving the Establishment Clause. Issues of internal governance are non-justiciable, including whether the constitution is being followed.

      In the property cases, varying methods of titling real property in different dioceses have led to varying results. These cases have usually been considered under the neutral principles Supreme Court precedent, and thus expressly do not touch on the applicability of our constitution.

      In the +Bruno case, the bishop has fully acknowledged and successfully litigated the applicability of the Dennis Canon, so even though it is a disciplinary case involving property issues, it is a disciplinary matter only, and not subject to judicial interpretation.

      It is worth noting that, here in Virginia, the courts used the neutral standards test in the property litigation and did uphold the Dennis Canon.

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  10. Turns out there is information out there about the LLC. It is registered in Delaware as "Katella Howell LLC," and owns commercial property in California that is encumbered by a multi-million dollar mortgage. It appears that +Bruno is attempting to raise funds to pay off that mortgage.

    Considering that the original attempted sale of the St. James property was to a friend of +Bruno's, one wonders who else is involved in the LLC and the present transaction.

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  11. The question I have is what happens on July 3rd, and do we even know what will happen? We know that Bruno essentially ignored the Title IV proceedings, and claims they have no jurisdiction over his actions. The latest update provided tells us church attorneys are calling for him to be deposed. And we know that the Presiding Bishop has intervened and ordered that the proposed closing of the property not take place in what is now two days.

    Is this enough to effectively stop the sale, and is Bruno inclined to follow the order that comes from the PB? In the most arrogant and careless fashion possible, he has attempted to proceed with this transaction. Do we know the answer to that yet?

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  12. And after VA there has been not a single replication (see Illinois, TX, SC); Beers and his team are gone, without a nice adieu; three losses weren't promising, and judges had begun to see how vacant the TEC constitution was when it came to "transparent" claims being made by TEC attorneys. Let us know when you now see any successful feint toward Dennis. Money and logic are both absent and hence, no further pursuit and a fresh new 'church's attorney' trying to do better.

    When TEC attorneys appealed to judges in states aforementioned, they failed to presuade. Judges said "I do not see it in your constitution." TEC lawyers persisted, diocesan attorneys persisted, and the former lost because it would have required the civil courts to interrogate TEC documents in a way--as you rightly note--would breach their remit. Their conclusion: the polity arguments of TEC attorneys would require amending the Constitution.

    Short of that, the matter was settled.

    What happens now in LA has to track that reality, now with a new legal team. Beers and Mary Costas are gone.

    Selah...

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    • Arguing the church constitution only comes into play when the church is arguing deference to hierarchical property determinations, which is not an issue here, as this is a disciplinary, not property case.

      You also are misinformed apropos the cases since Virginia. TEC prevailed via summary judgment in St. Edmunds Anglican Church, Elm Grove, WI. Moreover, the Pittsburgh Diocese continues to reclaim seized assets.

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  13. Never have seen any reference to Elm Grove WI. It must have been a minor event compared with the rulings in Texas, Illinois, and South Carolina. Beers and Costa are now gone after 8 years of litigation.

    +Bruno obviously believes that Title IV does not constrain his capacity as heirarchy in LA to do what he wants to do legally. And he is adopting the same basic logic as obtained in the three cases just mentioned.

    +Griswold held the same view of +Lee's leeway in VA. This has changed since +KJS. But obviously +Bruno questions whether he can be held back in the case of th property sale. This is discipline seeking effect in a legal matter by knock-on. You keep thinking they are to be cordoned off, which would be nice, except that +Bruno isn't cooperating.

    Have a good Sunday.

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  14. "During the period of the restriction, the Bishop, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from closing on the sale of the St. James property, or otherwise selling or conveying the property or contracting to sell the property, or, in any way assisting in the sale or conveyance of the property."

    Hierarchy purports to constrain a Bishop in an explicitly legal/property matter.

    "...which is not an issue here, as this is a disciplinary, not property case."

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    • At this point, it is a disciplinary matter only. As I stated previously, +Bruno has successfully litigated that the national church has an interest in diocesan property. The Corp Sole audit report acknowledges the applicability of the Dennis Canon to Corp Sole. So any claim to the contrary by +Bruno is likely to result in summary judgment against him. There simply is no viable legal case out there, irrespective of issues in other jurisdictions.

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  15. You said it wasn't a property case--see your own words as quoted--and yet clearly the PB believes he can constrain the property issue via direct command!

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    • Whatever. The reality is there is there is no viable cause of action apropos property. Having practiced law for many years, I would strongly urge +Bruno, were he my client, to avoid time, trouble and expense on any property claim, as well as the distinct possibility of being sanctioned for a frivolous suit.

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  16. One commentator notes: "His corporation sole is in law the record owner of the property. Therefore in the eyes of California civil law, +Bruno is on paper, at least, capable of conveying good title to the property, whether his doing so violates an ecclesiastical order or not."

    In reponse to Helen K above. This is a showdown between an erstwhile (pre 2009) and still allegedly autonomous Bishop and the effort of 2009 to give to a PB authority over Bishops in TEC. Previously, three senior Bishops oversaw discipline. So +Curry has issued an ultimatum under the cover of Title IV authority re fellow bishops.

    One wonders what counsel is being given to the potential buyer. That is the one loose thread in this. They could well be scared off by all the pyrotechnics, or be reassured by Corp Sole. Because CA law will recognise the sale of a Corp Sole. Does Bruno care if he is deposed? No. UNLESS a hearing panel could back date its ruling to enclose him and render the (possible) sale null and void.

    We have a show-down. The view of ACI was that Title IV was an overreach and open to challenge, given the historical/ constitutional role of the PB in TEC. That said, I would never have thought that an aggressive progressive like +Bruno would be the one to hit the assault button fully from within TEC's liberal bosom. The conservatives that challenged this did so effectively in three states. But they are not the Diocese of LA, fully in line with TEC's liberal trajectory.

    One supposes only the buyer and seller know what will come down. +Bruno does not seem to care if he is deposed.

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  17. Right. Bruno does not care if he is deposed. Perhaps that's what he wants, so he can personally reap the profits of this sale without the constraints of ecclesiastical discipline.

    A coadjutor comes in on Friday; he can immediately become diocesan bishop just as soon as Bruno decides to retire--the next day, even. Bruno can then start collecting his pension.

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    • Mr Croft, it's really out of line to suggest that Bishop Bruno would be a thief and reap any personal profits from the sale of Corp Sole property. I think at this point you have really gone too far and I'm personally offended at your unfounded accusation.

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      • David, Maybe Bishop Bruno went too far when he kicked a church out of their building and acted in a way which makes the Episcopal Church look terrible.

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      • Ms Olman, perhaps he did or perhaps he didn't, that isn't justification to make up and spread lies about him.

        You might also remember that he isn't alone in this, he has the support of many folks in the diocesan leadership and in the Diocese of LA.

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  18. Whatever? The PB does not believe this is "whatever" and the thread is about this very action on his part: demanding that a fellow bishop cease property negotiations that in law belong to his corp sole status in LA. Prior to Title IV the PB did not have this remit. Now that he has it, the live question is whether he can defeat a role that in law belongs to +Bruno. We shall have to see how +Bruno responds. I am no fan of the liberal Bishop of LA or TEC in its present guise. But I believe that Title IV is a stretch and questionable legally.

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  19. I stand corrected having read Bruno's response (posted at another thread by David Allen). It appears that Kostel and Beers are indeed still in the loop on this case. That response letter also makes clear that what is at issue for Bruno is the interference of the Hearing Panel for Title IV (and now also the PB) in what are the legal affairs of the EDLA.

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  20. I think, though, that the PB isn't seeing to "constrain the property." He is seeking to contrain the bishop. So, my bishop cannot prevent remarriage of a person, and even a church member, regardless of evidence that it's a bad idea. However, he can prevent me from celebrating the marriage; or if I carry through against the bishop's direction I can expect to bear the consequences.

    If another person had authority and was not ordained, perhaps that person could indeed follow through and the consequences would be negligible. However, it sounds to me (and I am not an attorney) as though in a corporation sole there is no one else to act.

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  21. Marshall, +Bruno holds the view that the PB has no authority in the EDLA to tell him he cannot sell property. Kindly read his own words. He is constraining him as a Bishop and in the context explicitly of selling property. +Bruno does not believe he has this authority. When the PB was asked to intervene in a matter of episcopal ruling on a funeral, the PB said he did not have authority in EDLA. I suspect the PB does not move in these waters very adroitly.But it is very clear in the record that lawyers for 815 wish to halt his ability to convey property.

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  22. PS.

    A single TEC Bishop constraining fellow TEC Bishops, inside TEC, begins to suggest a metropolitan role nowhere stipulated in the TEC Constitution. Church historians will quickly remind you how fraught this history inside TEC has been, for its entire existence. Three senior bishops refused to agree to depose +Duncan, and this polity had been the operative one. After that, Title IV was confected in order to give the PB some kind of special authority over fellow bishops, in effect creating a PB (without diocesan jurisdiction, save the convocation in Europe) with fresh metropolitical power. This is the issue +Bruno--on the hard left!--is challenging. I suspect if the HOB at GC were asked to make a genuine constitutional change re: PB, it would be voted down handily. So we have a Title IV contrivance limping along and being challenged, now from a surprising quarter. The conservative Bishops--afoul of Title IV for **filing an amicus brief**--were shut down and then retired. +Bruno is showing himself more formidable. Constraining property or constraining a bishops isn't at issue here; would that it were so simple. At issue is the relationship between bishops amongst bishops, and a new metropolitical role for one of them, nowhere in the Constitution and nowhere agreed by all the bishops, including a robust progressive like +Bruno.

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  23. I think that ultimately, it's all about "conduct unbecoming" a cleric.

    I would be puzzled by any bishop who attempts to close a thriving, growing congregation that he, himself had authorized not long ago.

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  24. Perhaps Jay you should go back and read the articles about the hearing, diocesan leadership testified that as far as the leadership knew the mission was not the thriving growing congregation that you posit. The few required reports and the lack of required reports constituted a much different profile of the mission in diocesan HQ. None of this happened in a vacuum, you had a priest representing the bishop, who was the rector, failing in much of her required job as far as interfacing with the diocese and by witness of others in the diocese, misrepresenting the situation to her laity. She resigned as vicar of the mission, worked a week or so in a new diocesan position offered her in componsation and then decided that she wanted a do over, so she now claims she never resigned. The employment records and the paycheck cut to pay her say otherwise. Now she stands in open rebellion of her bishop from whom she derives her authority. A priest (and a deacon) has no authority apart from that conveyed by their bishop.

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  25. Actually, the Episcopal Diocese has not reclaimed any property except some sites that were designated as Episcopal Diocese property in the court opinions from 2009 and January 2010. The diocese has reclaimed properties when an ACNA parish decides to move out or the site was vacant already. There have been no demands that anyone leave a building. I can certify this because I served as the administrator who handled all the transitions and communications with the ACNA congregations occupying buildings we owned. Several ACNA congregations still occupy buildings the Episcopal Diocese owns.

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  26. I pray that the sale did not transpire yesterday and that the congregation can eventually move back into its church with title to it conveyed to it as well. And + Bruno should resign or be deposed.

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