How the lead counsel for the Diocese of Colorado saw the Grace & St. Stephen’s case

An essay in a Colorado law firm’s soon-to-be-published newsletter sheds new light on the Grace & St. Stephen’s case in Colorado Springs from the perspective of the diocese‘s lead attorney.

Martin Nussbaum of the Rothberger, Johnson, & Lyons law firm recently unfurled a few of the legal enormities in the case, the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s “Pulpit” blogger noted on Thursday.

This litigation was extraordinary in several respects. It proceeded against a backdrop of an ongoing police investigation related to Father Armstrong’s alleged pre-secession conversion of parish funds; the recusal of the District Attorney, John Newsome, from any involvement due to his alignment with Father Armstrong; the appointment of a special prosecutor; and the convening of a grand jury. The investigation included the largest execution of a search warrant in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department –- over fifteen law enforcement officials searching the church, the school, the parish offices, the rectory, and computers at those locations and one officer assigned to inventory the firearms Father Armstrong carried on his person, in his Jeep, and in his home….

Over the objection of RJ&L counsel, Martin Nussbaum and Eric Hall, the trial court permitted the secessionists to certify one of its lawyers as an expert to testify on legal issues related to corporation, property, trust, adverse possession, and First Amendment law. In response, the Episcopal Church side certified two rebuttal legal experts. The result, at trial, involved lawyers examining fellow lawyers for days.

The CANA congregation in question, now known as St. George’s Anglican Church, will witness the criminal trial of its rector starting Feb. 22. At stake are charges consisting of 20 counts of felony theft stemming from Armstrong’s tenure at Grace & St. Stephen’s.

Interestingly, RJ&L is now offering a Religious Institutions Law Day on October 21. First on the docket for that day is Mr. Nussbaum speaking on “Schism & Secession: Disputes Over Property and Ecclesiastical Leadership.”

The firm bills the event as a review of

the legal issues related to such disputes and preventive steps to avoid such dispute… [It} will, at times, use the historic five-week Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church trial to illustrate problems and cures.

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