Trial Counsel...practicing preventive law

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Representative Cases

Widmar v. Vincent  454 US 263 (1981),    University of Missouri at Kansas City refused to permit student group called "Cornerstone" to meet college student union for weekly Bible study meetings.   Court held, 8-1, that public university students have right of “equal access”  to campus student union room for Bible study, prayer and worship meetings.  (See special Widmar page.)

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, MO v. Comer, 137 S.Ct. 2012 (2017), U. S. Supreme Court.  (Pending). Missouri DNR discriminated against local church in application for a Scrap Tire Surfacing Material Grant [ https://dnr.mo.gov/env/swmp/tires/tirefinassistance.htm] to cover a pre-school playground.  At issue is Missouri Constitution Art 1, Sec. 7, called a Blaine Amendment which prohibits even indirect financial aid to churches.  Oral argument was April 19, 2017.     

Ex. Bd of MBC v. Missouri Baptist Foundation, 497 S.W.3d 785 (Mo.App., 2016) 
3-0 decision affirming trial court summary judgment that parent organization was entitled to recover control over subsidiary corporation which had broken away by amendment of articles, but in violation of clause  requiring parent to approve any amendments.  Case remanded to trial court to enter final judgment and award fees to our client. Attorneys fee award of $5 million, settled by Church Mutual, was left standing. 

Ex. Bd of MBC v. Missouri Baptist Foundation380 S.W.3d 600,  (Mo.App., 2012).  Procedural ruling, dismissed for lack of finality. 

Executive Board of Missouri Baptist Convention v. Carnahan. 170 S.W.3d 437 (Mo App, WD) 2005.  A denomination, which is an unincorporated association of Southern Baptist churches in Missouri, has standing to bring declaratory judgment action against five subsidiary corporations which changed charters unilaterally to be self-perpetuating boards.

Heartland Presbytery, et al.,  v. Gashland Presbyterian Church, 364 S.W.3d 575 (CA, WD, 2012).  PC/USA denomination could not unilaterally declare trust over real property of local congregation, via national trust clause, in face of corporate Articles which vested title in the local corporation

Church Mutual Insurance Company v. The Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention.  (U.S. District Court, WD, MO., Case No.03-4224-CV-W-SOW)  Insurer refused to provide liability coverage and sued Baptists in federal court.  WLF obtained summary judgment in favor of Baptists and obtained settlement for damages on bad faith / breach of policy counterclaim.  

Missourians Against Human Cloning, et al., v. Carnahan, et al. 190 S.W.3d 451 (Mo. App. WD, 2006) Missouri Baptist Convention intervened as plaintiff in lawsuit challenging Secretary of State for misleading ballot title on initiative measure to protect embryonic stem cell research.  Court ultimately upheld Secretary’s discretion to draft the ballot summary.

Cures Without Cloning v. Pund, 259 S.W. 3d 76, (CA, WD, 2008)  upholding trial court's finding that Secretary of State's ballot title was insufficient and unfair, and re-writing the same to be fair. 

Bender v.Williamsport School Dist, 475 U.S. 534 (1986) Individual school board member lacked standing to appeal trial court decision upholding the right of “equal access” for public high school students to use school room for religious meetings during extra-curricular time.  (Case pre-dated federal Equal Access Act,1985)

Herdahl v. North Pontotoc County School Dist., 887 F.Supp.902 (ND Miss. 1995) People for American Way and ACLU obtained injunction against public school principal who allowed student-led prayer during morning intercom announcements.  Also enjoined Bible as history class taught by local ministerial alliance as an elective course.  (See story and here.) The case generated national publicity, (see World) including television programs on Oprah and an Emmy Award winning PBS special. 

Bradshaw, et al. v. Deming and Cathedral Square Corporation, et al.  837 S.W.2d 592 (Mo App. WD, 1992) Breach of fiduciary duty case. Elderly woman gave power of attorney to priest, who was also CEO in charge of her retirement apartment. When woman broke her hip, priest used DPA to withdraw artificial food and water.  Priest used financial power to make gifts to himself before and after her death.   Appeals court upheld verdict for actual and punitive damages against priest and church corporation.

Edwards v. Aguillard,   482 U.S. 578 (1987)  Smart & Whitehead served as deputized special assistants to the Attorney General to assist in discovery in a case defending Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment Act.”  Case eventually reached U.S.Supreme Court.

Kates v. Universal Underwriters Insurance Co., Chad Franklin Suzuki, et al. 348 S.W. 3d 115.  (Mo CA WD, 2011) Equitable garnishment action against insurer after arbitration award against automobile dealer for negligent misrepresentation and damage to credit rating.  Award plus interest was over $300,000.

AMICUS CURIAE BRIEFS for Southern Baptist Convention

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Docket No. 16-111, argued Dec 5, 2017.  Can state government compel cake artist to make custom wedding cake celebrating same sex marriage in violation of religious conscience?  WLF represented SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Comm'n, Missouri Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission, American Association of Christian Schools, and several other ministry organizations.  https://tinyurl.com/yb5tw6gc

Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, et al., 572 U.S. ____(2014), 134 S.Ct. 1811, 188 L.Ed. 2d 835, 82 USLW 4334.   Court clergy-led prayer at town council meetings. Filed brief for SBC.

Whole Woman Health Clinic v. Hellerstadt, S.C. Case no. 15-274  (2016), Argued March 2016.  Texas laws regulating health standards for abortionists and clinics.  . Filed brief for Missouri Baptist Convention .

Rev. Clyde Reed v. Town of Gilbert, AZ,, 135 S. Ct. 2218 (2015)  Court held sign ordinance unconstitutional in discriminating against church signs.

Lawson, et al. v. Kelly, et al., 58 F. Supp. 3d 923 (8 Cir., 2014) Amicus brief filed on behalf of Mo. Speaker of House and Senate President in support of Mo. Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as one man-one woman.  Appeal dismissed prior to Obergefell v. Hodges.  

Christians v. Crystal Evangelical Free Church, 82 F.3d  1407, (8 Cir, 1996)  vacated and remanded by U.S. Supreme Court,  521 U.S. 1114 (1997). Cert den. 525 U.S. 811 (1998)  Bankruptcy trustee tried to compel church to refund tithes of a member-debtor, as if a fraudulent conveyance prior to filing bankruptcy.  Eighth circuit upheld religious liberty protection for the gift.  Congress passed amendment to Bky Code to protect religious donations. Filed amicus brief on behalf of SBC, along with CLS and NAE.

Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist.,  508 U.S. 384,  113 S. Ct. 2141 (1993) Rental of school facility by church group not a violation of Establishment Clause, and equal access for religious groups is required, without content discrimination.

Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), Court bans principal-directed,  clergy-led prayer at public high school graduation service. Filed brief for SBC .

Madsen, et al., v.Women’s Health Center, Inc., et al.,  512 U.S. 753 (1994) Pro-life protestors won limitation of an injunction creating a 300 foot no-approach zone around abortion clinic--and particularly its consent requirement--burdens more speech than is necessary to accomplish the goals of preventing intimidation and ensuring access to the clinic.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), Supreme Court upheld right to abortion based on autonomy of woman’s choice.  Filed amicus brief for SBC, in cooperation with U.S. Catholic Conference.

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S.819 (1995) Court upheld student's right to equal access to university activity fees to fund student newspaper, even though it contained religious content.

Rust v. Sullivan 500 U.S. 173 (1991)  Court upheld right of state to impose regulations on abortion providers, including requirements to give prescribed informed consent.  Government can dictate the required speech of its agents in furtherance of government policy.

U.S. v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64 (1994) Filed brief for SBC defending federal obscenity laws prohibiting use of a minor. Court held scienter is required as to the age of the minor. 

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