Just received via email from a local press contact off the LAT newswire:
EPISCOPAL - A Los Angeles Superior Court judge rules that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year. The decision against St. Luke's of the Mountains comes barely a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles diocese in a similar property dispute with three other local churches.
UPDATE: From a Diocese of Los Angeles Media Update
Los Angeles Diocese prevails again in parish property dispute
LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled today that The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles are entitled to the property of St. Luke's of the Mountains Parish in La Crescenta, California.
The decision comes on the heels of the landmark opinion last week from the California Court of Appeal which unanimously upheld claims by the Diocese of Los Angeles and the national office of The Episcopal Church to the property of three separate parishes whose leaders and members left the Episcopal Church in 2004.
The Diocese of Los Angeles encompasses the Counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, and a portion of Riverside County, under the ecclesiastical authority of its Bishop Diocesan, the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno.
In February 2006, St. Luke's severed its relationship with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, placing itself under the jurisdiction of a conservative Anglican bishop in Uganda. The departing members claimed they were entitled to take parish property away from The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. The Diocese, citing church canons which place all parish property in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese, asserted it was entitled to retain the property. Litigation followed.
The ruling today by Judge John Shepard Wiley, Jr. follows the recent appellate opinion and confirms Bishop Bruno's conviction that parish property cannot be taken away from the larger church by departing members.
"We're very pleased with this decision today," said Bishop Bruno. "We are a people of reconciliation, and our major concern is for the people of St. Luke's, and how to bring them back into relationship with the Diocese of Los Angeles if they wish. We will pray for them. I hope they will pray for us."
Holme Roberts & Owen partner, John R. Shiner, Chancellor of the Diocese and its attorney in the litigation, called the ruling "another important step to dispel any notion that local congregations of a hierarchical church may leave the larger church and take property with them."
And here's the L.A. Times article from today: Diocese wins another round