Justia Non-Profit Corporations Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Non-Profit Corporations
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Five employees of The Mayo Clinic, a Minnesota non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit alleging that the organization failed to accommodate their religious beliefs under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The employees claimed that they were terminated for refusing to comply with Mayo's Covid-19 vaccination or testing policies. The plaintiffs sought religious accommodations for the vaccination requirement, citing their Christian religious beliefs. Mayo denied the accommodations for three plaintiffs who refused to get the vaccine. It granted vaccination exemptions to two plaintiffs, but required them to test for Covid-19 weekly, which they refused.The district court dismissed the claims, ruling that two plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies under Title VII, the other plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead religious beliefs that conflict with Mayo’s Covid-19 policies, and the MHRA fails to provide relief for not accommodating religious beliefs.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case. The appellate court found that the district court erred in finding that two plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies under Title VII. The court also found that all plaintiffs adequately pled a conflict between their Christian religious beliefs and Mayo Clinic’s Covid-19 policy. Furthermore, the appellate court disagreed with the district court's finding that the MHRA does not provide a cause of action for failure to accommodate religious beliefs. The appellate court held that the MHRA, being a remedial act, should be construed liberally to secure freedom from discrimination for persons in Minnesota, and thus provides protection against failures to accommodate religious beliefs. View "Ringhofer v. Mayo Clinic Ambulance" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Alaska affirmed a lower court's decision that the Copper River Native Association (CRNA), a non-profit corporation formed by federally recognized Alaska Native tribes, is an arm of its member tribes and thus entitled to tribal sovereign immunity. The case arose when a former employee sued CRNA over her termination. The superior court dismissed her complaint, concluding that CRNA was an arm of its member tribes and therefore entitled to sovereign immunity. The former employee appealed, arguing that CRNA was not entitled to tribal immunity. The Supreme Court of Alaska agreed with CRNA that the legal landscape defining the contours of tribal sovereign immunity has shifted significantly since its 2004 decision in Runyon ex rel. B.R. v. Association of Village Council Presidents. The court adopted a multi-factor inquiry to determine whether an entity is entitled to “arm-of-the-tribe” immunity. Applying this multi-factor inquiry, the court concluded that CRNA is an arm of its member tribes and affirmed the superior court's decision. View "Ito v. Copper River Native Association" on Justia Law

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The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU) sought to obtain records from the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey (CPANJ), a nonprofit association whose members are the twenty-one county prosecutors. The ACLU claimed that CPANJ is a public agency required to disclose records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and a public entity subject to the common law right of access. CPANJ denied the request, asserting that it is not a public agency for purposes of OPRA and is not a public entity subject to the common law right of access. The ACLU filed a lawsuit, but the trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that CPANJ is not a public agency within the meaning of OPRA and that CPANJ’s records do not constitute public records for purposes of the common law right of access. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision.The Supreme Court of New Jersey agreed with the lower courts, holding that CPANJ is neither a public agency under OPRA nor a public entity subject to the common law right of access. The court found that the ACLU’s factual allegations did not support a claim against CPANJ under OPRA or the common law. The court concluded that a county prosecutor, who is a constitutional officer, is not the alter ego of the county itself, and does not constitute a “political subdivision” as that term is used in OPRA. Therefore, CPANJ, an organization in which the county prosecutors are members, is not a public agency for purposes of OPRA. The court also found that the ACLU did not allege facts suggesting that CPANJ is an entity upon which a common law right of access request for documents may properly be served. The judgment of the Appellate Division was affirmed. View "American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Joseph Gazal, donated over $1 million to purchase a car and a home for a destitute family. He was inspired to make this donation after hearing a homily delivered by defendant Carlos Echeverry, a deacon at his church. Gazal brought a lawsuit against Echeverry and his wife, Jessica Echeverry, as well as SOFESA, Inc., a nonprofit founded and led by Jessica Echeverry. Gazal claimed he was deceived into believing the car and house would be purchased for and titled to the destitute family, when in fact they were bought and titled to SOFESA.The defendants filed a special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, asserting that the homily and following conversations were protected speech. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the complaint did not rest on protected speech, but rather on private conduct and speech not directed at a wide public audience. Additionally, the court found that the causes of action arose from further communications that took place weeks after the homily.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight affirmed the trial court's decision. The court held that while the homily could be considered protected speech, the plaintiff's claims did not arise from the homily but rather from the alleged misconduct that occurred after its delivery. The court also found that the private discussions following the homily did not qualify for anti-SLAPP protection as they did not contribute to a public conversation on the issue of homelessness. Furthermore, the court denied a motion for sanctions filed by the plaintiff. View "Gazal v. Echeverry" on Justia Law

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This case involves Alliance Housing Incorporated and North Penn Supportive Housing LLC, collectively known as Alliance, Minnesota nonprofits operating to create, own, and operate affordable housing for low and very low-income people. Alliance owns several properties in Minneapolis, which are used exclusively as private residences for tenants whose incomes are 30–50 percent of the area median income. Alliance provides some supplies and cleaning services to various units but does not occupy the properties. In late 2018, Alliance applied for tax exemption for all its properties in assessment year 2020. The Minneapolis City Assessor denied the applications. Alliance then filed a property tax petition for the assessment year 2020, payable in 2021, claiming that its properties were tax-exempt. The tax court concluded that the properties owned by Alliance were exempt from property taxes.The State of Minnesota in Supreme Court held that for purposes of qualifying for tax exemption under Article X, Section 1, of the Minnesota Constitution, an institution of purely public charity with a purpose of providing housing for low-income individuals uses its real property in furtherance of its charitable purpose when it leases its property to its intended beneficiaries for personal residence. The court found that when the very purpose of an Institution of Purely Public Charity (IPPC) is to own and operate real property in a charitable manner for private residence, the exclusive residential occupancy of the property by the clients of the IPPC does not defeat the constitutional requirement that property be used to further a charitable purpose. Therefore, the tax court did not err in finding that Alliance’s properties are used for the tax-exempt purpose of providing affordable housing to low-income tenants. The decision of the tax court granting property tax exemptions to Alliance’s properties was affirmed. View "Alliance Housing Incorporated vs. County of Hennepin" on Justia Law

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The case before the Supreme Court of North Carolina involved a dispute between The Society for the Historical Preservation of the Twentysixth North Carolina Troops, Inc. (plaintiff) and the City of Asheville (defendant). The controversy centered around a monument dedicated to Zebulon Vance, a former North Carolina Governor and Confederate Colonel. The plaintiff, a nonprofit historical preservation organization, raised funds to restore the monument and entered into a donation agreement with the City, whereby the monument was restored and then donated to the City. However, the City later decided to remove the monument, citing it as a public safety threat due to vandalism and threats of toppling.In response, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the City, alleging that the City breached the 2015 donation agreement and seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and a declaratory judgment. The plaintiff argued that both parties had entered into a contract with the intent to preserve the monument in perpetuity. The City filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the City's motion, and this decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.When the case reached the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the court reversed the Court of Appeals’ determination that the plaintiff's breach of contract claim should be dismissed for lack of standing. However, the court noted that the plaintiff had abandoned the merits of its breach of contract claim in its appeal. As such, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff's claims for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory judgment for lack of standing. The court concluded that the plaintiff failed to assert any ground for which it has standing to contest the removal of the monument. View "Soc'y for the Hist. Pres. of the Twenty-sixth N.C. Troops, Inc. v. City of Asheville" on Justia Law

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The case pertains to a dispute between the Department of Finance of the City of New York and Brookdale Physicians' Dialysis Associates, Inc. over the revocation of a real property tax exemption. The property in question was owned by Samuel and Bertha Schulman Institute for Nursing and Rehabilitation Fund, Inc., a not-for-profit entity, and was leased to Brookdale Dialysis, a for-profit corporation. The Department of Finance retroactively revoked the property's tax-exempt status in 2013, citing the fact that the property had been leased to a for-profit entity.The Supreme Court initially annulled the Department's determination, arguing that it failed to consider whether Brookdale Dialysis' services were reasonably incidental to the exemption purpose. The Department of Finance reassessed the property for the 2014-2015 tax year and again revoked the exemption after finding that the income from the lease exceeded the expenses for the property. The decision to revoke the exemption was subsequently affirmed by the Appellate Division.However, the Court of Appeals reversed these decisions, holding that the property was not exempt under New York Real Property Tax Law § 420-a. The court noted that the law mandatorily exempts from taxation any real property owned by certain not-for-profit entities and used exclusively for beneficial purposes without financial gain. The law does not apply to property leased by a for-profit corporation. Therefore, the court concluded that the property in this case was not exempt under this law, and the Department of Finance's decision to revoke the exemption was justified. View "Matter of Brookdale Physicians' Dialysis Assoc., Inc. v Department of Fin. of the City of N.Y." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia recently ruled on a case involving the nonprofit organization Tax Analysts and Matthew Irby, the West Virginia State Tax Commissioner. Tax Analysts requested copies of field audit and audit training manuals from the West Virginia State Tax Department under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Department denied the request, citing a statutory exemption protecting certain tax-related documents. Tax Analysts then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to prevent the Department from withholding the requested documents.The Circuit Court of Kanawha County ruled in favor of the Department and dismissed the case, accepting the Department's argument that the documents were statutorily protected by the asserted FOIA disclosure exemption. However, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed this decision, concluding that the circuit court erred by not requiring the Department to present detailed justifications, known as a Vaughn index and an affidavit, as to why each document or part of it was exempt from disclosure under the FOIA.The court remanded the case with instructions for the circuit court to require the Department to file a Vaughn index and an affidavit explaining why disclosure of the documents would be harmful and why they should be exempt. The court concluded that the Department had not met its burden of showing the express applicability of the claimed exemption to the material requested. View "Tax Analysts v. Irby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Wisconsin was asked to review a decision by the state's Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) and determine whether Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. (CCB) and its four sub-entities were operated primarily for religious purposes, and thus exempt from making contributions to Wisconsin's unemployment insurance system. The Court decided that in determining whether an organization is "operated primarily for religious purposes" according to Wisconsin Statute § 108.02(15)(h)2, both the motivations and activities of the organization must be examined.Reviewing the facts of the case, the court determined that while CCB and its sub-entities professed to have a religious motivation, their activities were primarily charitable and secular. The services provided by the sub-entities, which included job training, placement, and coaching, along with services related to daily living, could be provided by organizations of either religious or secular motivations, and thus were not "primarily" religious in nature.The court also rejected CCB's argument that this interpretation of the statute violated the First Amendment, as it did not interfere with the church's internal governance nor examine religious dogma. Instead, it was a neutral and secular inquiry based on objective criteria. Therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals. View "Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves Purpose Built Families Foundation, a Florida nonprofit that received federal grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve veterans and their families. In 2022, the Department notified the Foundation that activities and payments under five grants would be terminated or withheld due to "major fiscal mismanagement activities". The Foundation sued the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under the Administrative Procedure Act and received a temporary restraining order. Subsequently, the Department withdrew the challenged notices and the Secretary moved to dismiss the action as moot. The district court granted the motion.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court. The court held that the case was moot, as the Department's withdrawal of the notices meant the Foundation's claims could not provide meaningful relief. It also ruled that neither the voluntary-cessation nor the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exceptions to mootness applied. The court stated that the Department's subsequent actions, including a more robust process and new termination notices, were materially different from the original notices. Therefore, a lawsuit challenging the new termination notices would involve materially different allegations and answers. The court concluded that the Foundation would have ample opportunity for judicial review of the legality of the new terminations, once the administrative process was completed. View "Purpose Built Families Foundation, Inc. v. USA" on Justia Law