A state appellate court on Friday threw out part of LA Episcopal Bishop Jon Bruno’s lawsuit against the Griffith Co., donor of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church site in Newport Beach.
SANTA ANA – A state appellate court on Friday threw out part of LA Episcopal Bishop Jon Bruno’s lawsuit against the Griffith Co., donor of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church site in Newport Beach.
The Court of Appeal in Santa Ana reversed a lower court ruling and ordered that Bruno’s title slander claim, and his related claim for damages, be dismissed. The appellate court also ordered Bruno to pay Griffith’s attorney fees in the matter.
The suit by Bruno against Griffith arose from the bishop’s controversial attempt in spring 2015 to sell the St. James the Great site to a condo developer.
The active and growing congregation of the church questioned the sale, and the bishop responded by locking the parishioners out. The Newport Beach City Council also sharply criticized the proposed sale, and Griffith asserted a deed restriction that the property only be used for a church.
The sale fell out of escrow soon thereafter.
Bishop Bruno had sued Griffith for clear title and for title slander, alleging the donor knew the deed restriction had lapsed and only made the claim to cloud the condo deal. Bruno also claimed damages against Griffith. Griffith moved to have the title slander claim dismissed, on free-speech grounds.
The ruling does not directly affect the status of the St. James the Great congregation, which remains locked out to this day and has been holding services in various temporary locations. Currently, parishioners worship Sunday mornings in the Community Room of the Newport Beach Civic Center.