There is an interesting tidbit in this story by Mark Barna in the Colorado Springs Gazette. Martin Nussbaum, lead council for the Diocese of Colorado in its recent victory over a breakaway parish recently is scheduled to lead a workshop for churches on “property disputes, zoning laws, employee benefits, religious liberty rights and other issues.”
Nussbaum and Eric V. Hall were the lead attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado in a dispute initiated by an Anglican parish for the $17 million Grace Church property downtown. In March, a Fourth Judicial District court judge ruled that the property legally belonged to the diocese.
Legal fees were $2.9 million for the diocese and about $700,000 for the Anglican parish, now known as St. George’s.
During his presentation, Nussbaum will point out that the colossal legal fees could have been avoided had the Anglican parish heeded legal advice early on.
The vestry of the Anglican parish had sought Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons as counsel in the property case, Nussbaum said. Armstrong was told then that the Anglican parish would not prevail in the property case, Nussbaum said, because similar cases brought before the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a parish loses its property when it leaves a denomination.
Even though the “law was crystal clear,” according to Nussbaum, Armstrong and his vestry chose to retain other attorneys and fight for the Grace property. (To read more from attorney Martin Nussbaum on the Grace Church property trial, go to “The Pulpit” blog at http://thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.)
The potentially erroneous assumption here is that the leaders of breakaway congregation wanted to save money. It is equally possible, especially on the evidence of the case of St. James, Newport Beach, that the strategy of the breakaway congregtions led by Martyn Minns is simply to inflict as much damage on the Episcopal Church as possible, and count on their deep-pocketed donors to make that possible. Susan Russell recently made a similar point.