LiMandri & Jonna SLAPPs New Case out of Court

LiMandri & Jonna SLAPPs New Case out of Court
The day after Christmas 2017, a Catholic cleric filed suit against LiMandri & Jonna’s client, a local Catholic church. The cleric alleged breach of contract with respect to loans he allegedly made to the church, loss of retirement benefits, and defamation after the church hierarchs published letters informing their parishioners that the cleric could no longer validly administer the sacraments in San Diego.

LiMandri & Jonna immediately filed an anti-SLAPP special motion to strike the defamation claim and moved to dismiss the retirement benefits claim—based on well settled First Amendment constitutional law. With respect to the defamation claim, the courts cannot adjudicate religious questions, and therefore the doctrinal issue of whether the cleric could still administer Catholic sacraments was outside the purview of the court. With respect to the retirement benefits claim, the government cannot interfere with a church’s decision to fire a cleric, including by forcing a church to pay a severance or retirement benefits.

LiMandri & Jonna’s motions were granted in full, leaving only the breach of contract claims. The Court also informed the church that it was entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees for bringing the motions. The parties then settled those remaining claims and the cleric dismissed his case.