Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
Weare Bible Baptist Church, Inc. v. Fuller
Defendants Evelyn Quimby, Susan Quimby, and Christopher Quimby, appealed superior court orders denying their motion to dismiss the Weare Bible Baptist Church’s motion for contempt, finding the defendants in contempt, and imposing additional obligations upon the defendants. In 1985, Leland Quimby, the patriarch of the defendants’ family, became the pastor of the Church. In 2014, after Leland suffered a stroke, defendants decided to find an interim pastor. Calvin Fuller was voted in by the entire Church membership to become pastor. Thereafter, Fuller invited new members to join the Church, took several actions relating to the administration of the Church and its finances, amended the Church’s corporate charter, and replaced the members of the corporate board. Subsequently, defendants filed an action on behalf of the Church seeking to void the memberships of Fuller, his wife, and the new members he invited to join the Church, and the official acts Fuller took as pastor, due to an alleged failure to comply with the corporate charter. Following a bench trial, the trial court issued a final order in February 2016 (2016 order) in which it concluded that: (1) Fuller was duly elected as pastor with full authority; (2) Fuller, his wife, and the other new members of the Church were properly admitted; and (3) certain “official acts” taken by Fuller and the defendants following Fuller’s appointment were invalid for failure to follow the procedures set forth in the Church’s corporate charter. On appeal, defendants argued the trial court: (1) erred in denying their motion to dismiss because the Church’s contempt motion failed to identify a clear directive of the court that defendants violated; (2) committed an unsustainable exercise of discretion in finding defendants in contempt in the absence of a clear directive in the underlying order; and (3) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to render its findings and rulings because doing so required the court to consider ecclesiastical matters of the Church. Because the Church’s contempt motion asks the court to rule on ecclesiastical matters, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of defendants’ motion to dismiss, and vacated and remanded the trial court’s additional rulings. View "Weare Bible Baptist Church, Inc. v. Fuller" on Justia Law
In re Trust of Mary Baker Eddy
The Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Melbourne (Australia) appealed a circuit court order denying it standing to request affirmative relief and enforce certain charitable trusts created by the will of Mary Baker Eddy. Mary Baker Eddy founded the Church of Christian Science and, upon her death in 1910, her will established two testamentary trusts, known as the Clause VI Trust and Clause VIII Trust. In previous litigation concerning these trusts, we upheld the validity of the trusts and established that the bequest in Clause VIII was to be held in trust for two purposes, church building repair and “promoting and extending the religion of Christian Science as taught by [Mrs. Eddy].” The underlying litigation commenced in 2015, when Second Church, an alleged qualified beneficiary of the Clause VIII Trust, sought to review, and potentially object to, the annual accounting filed by the trustees. In March 2018, the trial court issued an order finding that Second Church failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that it had standing. The trial court acknowledged the general rule that when a trust is determined to be charitable, it becomes the duty of the attorney general to ensure that the rights of the public in the trust are protected and that the trust is properly executed. The court further noted that New Hampshire law was unclear as to whether a possible beneficiary of a charitable trust, like Second Church here, had standing. Looking to other jurisdictions for guidance, the trial court determined that most jurisdictions have ruled that a possible beneficiary is generally not entitled to sue for enforcement of the trust. After considering how other courts have applied the doctrine of special interest standing, the trial court applied a five-factor test, often referred to as the Blasko test. The trial court found that none of the factors weighed in favor of granting Second Church standing. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's judgment and affirmed Second Church lacked standing. View "In re Trust of Mary Baker Eddy" on Justia Law
The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire v. Town of Effingham
Plaintiff The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire (MBNH) appealed several superior court orders: (1) a decision upholding the denial by defendant Town of Effingham (Town), of MBNH’s request for a charitable tax exemption, for tax year 2015, for real property; and (2) an order granting the Town’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of the tax treatment of New Hampshire youth camps other than the camp run by MBNH. When Camp Marist was not in session, MBNH rented the Property subject to this appeal: no restrictions were placed on who is eligible to rent, or how renters use, the Property. Rental proceeds were allocated to either the “regular Camp fund, the running of the Camp, or . . . to some of [MBNH’s] scholarships.” MBNH argues that the trial court erred in determining that it met none of the "ElderTrust" factors. After careful consideration, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded MBNH did satisfy all ElderTrust factors, reversing the trial court. View "The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire v. Town of Effingham" on Justia Law
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese in New Hampshire v. Town of Durham
Plaintiff, The Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese in New Hampshire, A Corporation Sole, d/b/a St. George’s Episcopal Church (Church), appealed a superior court order denying its summary judgment motion and granting that of the defendant, Town of Durham (Town), based upon a finding that 24 spaces in the Church’s parking lot that are leased to University of New Hampshire (UNH) students were taxable. Until 2013, the Church received a religious tax exemption under RSA 72:23, III for its entire parking lot. In early 2013, the Town learned that the Church leased spaces to UNH students. At that time, the Town believed students leased 30 of the 37 parking spaces. Accordingly, after determining that the leased parking spaces were no longer exempt from taxation, the Town issued the Church a tax bill. After review of the Church’s arguments on appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the Church did not meet its burden of demonstrating that the leased spaces were exempt. The Court affirmed the superior court order. View "Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese in New Hampshire v. Town of Durham" on Justia Law
Attorney General, Director of Charitable Trusts v. Loreto Publications, Inc.
Respondent Loreto Publications, Inc. appealed a circuit court order ruling that Loreto failed to establish that it was statutorily exempt from filing annual reports with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and requiring it to file reports for fiscal years 2010 to 2014. Loreto was a nonprofit corporation organized under RSA chapter 292. Its stated purpose was “the promotion, and propagation of the Roman Catholic religion through the publication, sale, or distribution of books, magazines, pamphlets or [tracts], and the use of any other communications media, whether electronic, audio, visual, printed, written or oral.” In or around 2003, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) granted Loreto a tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In 2008, the Charitable Trust Unit of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office learned that Loreto was operating as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in New Hampshire and advised Loreto that New Hampshire law required it to register with and submit annual reports. In 2009, Loreto registered with the Charitable Trust Unit but did not file an annual report for fiscal year 2010 or any subsequent fiscal year. In 2013, Loreto’s 501(c)(3) status was “automatically revoked [by the IRS] for its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years.” The Interim Director of Charitable Trusts sought an order in the circuit court requiring Loreto to file its delinquent reports. Loreto moved to dismiss, arguing that “[s]ince [it] . . . is NOT a Charitable Trust, but rather a church/religious organization, [the] court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under [RSA 547:3, II(a)] to hear this matter.” The court denied the motion. Finding no reversible error in that denial, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Attorney General, Director of Charitable Trusts v. Loreto Publications, Inc." on Justia Law
Todd v. Vermont Mutual Insurance Co.
Petitioner Thomas Todd, a Massachusetts resident, is a member of the New Hampshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). He was a member of the AMC’s paddling committee since 1989 and was the committee’s co-chair in 2009 and 2010. Sally Leonard was also a member of the AMC’s paddling committee. In January 2014, Leonard filed a stalking petition against Todd, alleging Todd "hacked" her computer and broke her vehicle’s window after she had voiced her opinion at an AMC meeting that Todd should not be allowed to participate in a paddling committee event "due to his history of aggressive behavior toward females." Todd was insured under a homeowner’s insurance policy and an umbrella liability policy issued to him by Vermont Mutual Insurance Company. After the stalking petition was filed, Todd notified Vermont Mutual of the action and requested that it provide a defense under one or both of the policies. Vermont Mutual declined. The AMC was insured by Hanover Mutual Insurance Company under an employment practices liability (EPL) policy and a nonprofit directors, officers and organizations liability (D & O) policy. Todd informed the AMC of the stalking petition and requested that it notify Hanover to provide him with a defense. Hanover declined too. In March 2014, the Circuit Court ultimately found that Leonard “failed to sustain [her] burden of proof,” and, therefore, the court did not issue a restraining order against Todd. Todd incurred approximately $18,000 in attorney’s fees and costs in defending against the stalking petition. In June 2014, Todd filed this declaratory judgment proceeding, seeking a declaration that Vermont Mutual and Hanover owed a duty to defend him against the stalking petition and to reimburse him for the attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending against the stalking petition. In addition, he sought attorney’s fees and costs for bringing the declaratory judgment proceeding. Todd appealed when cross-motions for summary judgment and summary judgment were granted favor of the insurance companies. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Todd v. Vermont Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law