The firm’s New Jersey office obtained a victory on an artfully crafted motion to dismiss all but one of the counts of Plaintiff’s complaint in a New Jersey state case.
The matter arose from a largely religious dispute relating to the closure of a parish and control over property contained within a church, a subordinate parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The property alleged consisted of religious artifacts, icons and furnishings. Plaintiffs alleged various claims against our client, a hierarchal religious organization, including Breach of Contract, Malicious Damage, and Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Associate Cara Manz argued that parish closures, corporate dissolution, and control of the items referred to in Plaintiff’s Complaint are matters of religion and inappropriate for resolution in a Civil court of law. These are entirely doctrinal matters that center around religion and fall directly within the authority of client’s ecclesiastical court. Our client has the right under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to “…establish their own rules and regulations for internal discipline and government to create tribunals for adjudicating disputes…” As such, a civil court has no subject matter jurisdiction over this case.
Ms. Manz also argued that Plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case against our clients as they failed to proffer any evidence of the allegations in the complaint. It is fundamental that a plaintiff must prove damages with such certainty as the nature of the case may permit, laying a foundation which will enable the trier of facts to make a fair and reasonable estimate.
The court granted the motion to dismiss all but one of the counts of Plaintiff’s complaint, greatly narrowing the scope and complexity of the matter.