On June 2, 2015, the presbytery wired $390,000.00 to the law firm representing the church, of which 75 percent was then remitted to Carrollton, with plans to use it for missions.
However, the amount of interest to be paid to the church by the presbytery is still in dispute. According to court documents, the presbytery believes that the amount of interest due to the church should be calculated from the date the sanctions were awarded by the court. Carrolton contends that the amount should be calculated from the date when it originally filed for sanctions.
The highest possible amount that could possibly be awarded to the church — $93,394.32 – has been deposited into the registry of the court until the court decides what amount of interest should be paid.
In March 2008, Carrollton Presbyterian Church filed a civil lawsuit against the Presbytery of South Louisiana seeking a declaratory judgment that it owned its property, free and clear of the presbytery.
The church had been in the process of selling its property to its contiguous neighbor, The Stuart Hall School for Boys, when the presbytery tried to block the sale by asserting that the denomination – not the church – owned the property. The court ruled in favor of the local church, as did the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal. Both the Louisiana Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case when the presbytery filed appeals.
According to court documents, the presbytery spent more than $500,000 opposing Carrollton’s sale of its property – valued at less than $1 million.
‘No way for the PSL to prevail’
On July 25, 2013, Judge Kay Bates of the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge in Louisiana, issued a ruling in the case of Carrollton Presbyterian Church vs. The Presbytery of South Louisiana of the Presbyterian Church (USA) where she “unavoidably” concluded that the presbytery had “in bad faith advanced frivolous arguments in support of a claimed right it knew had no legal or evidentiary support,” and imposed the sanctions.
Bates said, in her order, that Mark Tammen, who at that time was the director of Constitutional Services with the PCUSA Office of the General Assembly, “bluntly informed” the presbytery that he saw “no way for the PSL to prevail.” The court order continued that even the presbytery’s own corporate representatives, during depositions, acknowledged that “Carrollton continued to have the right to sell the property at issue without PSL permission.”
However, the presbytery continued to oppose the church, she wrote, and also quoted a Jan. 28, 2009, email where the presbytery’s lead New Orleans attorney “confided to some of his collaborators, ‘One must wonder whether Carrollton is prepared to go to the expense of litigating this case.’”
In her order, Bates wrote that “As a result of the PSL’s unreasonable intransigence Carrollton was forced to needlessly spend $336,000 in fees and expenses in pursuing recognition and enforcement of its property right.”
What happened during this “unfortunate litigation,” wrote Bates, was a “profoundly disturbing display of disdain for the rule of law and the judiciary. Multiple orders of this court were knowingly and contumaciously violated.”
Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld sanctions imposed by the lower court on March 9, 2015.
On May 22, 2015, the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously denied the presbytery’s petition for a review of the Appeal’s Court decision.
Case timeline and related articles:
August 2013: Presbyterians conspiring to act in ‘bad faith’
October 2012: David fells Goliath again
January 2010: Presbytery appeals decision
December 2009: Presbytery forced to release documents
October 2009: Expenses mount
October 2009: Presbytery found in contempt of court
September 2009: Judge orders presbytery to back off
August 2009: Judge issues ‘written reasons’ favoring Carrollton