California property ruling defers to higher court

As was posted here yesterday, there was another California court ruling in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning:

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision by Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. against St. Luke’s of the Mountains came more than a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles Diocese in a similar property dispute with three other parishes.

The judge said Tuesday that he could not ignore the higher court’s extensive June 25 ruling on comparable issues, but said he expected an appeal in the St. Luke’s dispute as well.

“This case is far from over, but it’s over in this court,” he said.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Wiley said that before the appellate court’s detailed, 77-page ruling, he had been leaning toward a decision for St. Luke’s. But after the appellate ruling, he was obliged to defer to the higher court and its analysis of church property precedents in California and elsewhere, he said.

Eric Sohlgren, lead attorney for St. Luke’s and the other dissident local parishes, said St. Luke’s officials were expected to quickly decide whether to appeal. Sohlgren repeated his view that the appellate ruling was contrary to three decades of legal precedent in California and that it probably would be overturned.

But the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese, said he was happy with Tuesday’s decision and eager to reconcile with St. Luke’s parishioners and leaders, many of whom he has known for years.

The entire LA Times article is here.

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