A judge signaled Monday that she will not permit Katy Perry to be deposed in a lawsuit that pits her against two nuns who oppose the singer’s proposed purchase of a onetime convent in Los Feliz, but former Archbishop Roger Mahony will be answering questions from the sisters’ attorneys.
The rulings came during a hearing in which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick asked attorney John Scholnick, on behalf of Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, and lawyer Randy Snyder, who represents restaurant owner Dana Hollister, to fully explain what knowledge the individuals they seek to depose have concerning authority and control over the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Callanan and Holzman, who are among five members of the institute, used to live in the convent and maintain they had authority to sell the Waverly Drive property to Hollister. But the Archdiocese of Los Angeles disputes that contention and said the archbishop’s approval was required.
The archdiocese, which wants to sell the property to Perry, started the litigation by filing suit against Hollister in June 2015, stating that Hollister is considering using the property for a boutique hotel with a restaurant and bar. According to that lawsuit, the archdiocese’s lease of the buildings for a priests’ house of prayer has a remaining term of 77 years.
Callanan and Holzman later joined the litigation as intervenors and Perry, through her company, The Bird Nest LLC, did so via a cross-complaint.
In April, Bowick granted motions by the archdiocese and Bird Nest that appeared to cancel the convent’s sale to Hollister and clear the way for Perry’s acquisition of the property. The judge said the sisters needed the approval of the archbishop to sell the convent.
However, the nuns sought a ruling from the 2nd District Court of Appeal directing Bowick to set aside those orders.
In September, the appellate court chose not to reverse Bowick. But the judge did set aside her April rulings to allow additional fact-finding by lawyers for Hollister and the nuns in the wake of the announced intentions by lawyers for the archdiocese and Bird Nest attorneys to file motions aimed at once again enabling the sale to Perry. A hearing on those motions is scheduled for December.
Archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan said his clients are willing to make available to lawyers for Hollister and the nuns only those witnesses with internal, relevant information. All sides agree Mahony was involved in obtaining the 1992 agreement between the archdiocese and the institute requiring the conditions for any sale of the convent.
Hennigan said the 80-year-old Mahony has no objections to being questioned.
“He’s anxious to do it,” Hennigan said.
But Hennigan and Bird Nest attorney Eric Rowen said many of the other witnesses that attorneys for the nuns and Hollister on their deposition lists, including Perry, have no pertinent information.
Bowick did not issue a final ruling on Perry’s deposition, but said she does not see at present how questioning the “Roar” singer could shed light on the competing claims the nuns and the archdiocese have concerning the control and authority over the institute.
The archdiocese attorneys also said they will make four other people available for depositions, including the Rev. Thomas Anslow. The institute’s activities are overseen by the archdiocese under orders issued in 2005 and 2013 in which Anslow was appointed to act as the legal agent authorized to act in all civil matters on behalf of the institute.
Anslow is undergoing treatments for terminal cancer, but will be able to answer the lawyers’ questions, Hennigan said.
In a sworn statement, Anslow says Perry’s representatives first inquired about the property in late 2011 or early 2012. He says the archbishop initially was cool to the idea and said it was not for sale. However, Perry’s group made a renewed pitch, this time offering to build a new priests’ house of prayer elsewhere and to allow the clergy to remain on the property for a nominal rent until the new structure was completed, according to the archdiocese attorneys’ court papers.
Bowick put a seven-hour limit on the depositions of all five people and set another status conference for Thursday for an update on when the deponents will be available. She has offered the lawyers the use of her jury room for the depositions.
The proposed sale to Perry would be for $14.5 million, consisting of $10 million in cash and an agreement to provide an alternative property for the house of prayer worth $4.5 million, according to the archdiocese. In contrast, Hollister paid only $44,000 and agreed to a contingent promissory note, Hennigan said.
–City News Service
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