LOS ANGELES (CN) – Two nuns opposed to Katy Perry’s plans to buy an LA-area convent asked a state court on Friday to delay a trial against their preferred buyer, a developer who stands accused of interfering in the pop star’s $14.5 million bid to turn the property into her new home.
Attorneys for Sister Catherine Holzman, Sister Rita Callanan and the developer Dana Hollister argued at a morning hearing that the court should delay a civil trial for damages against the developer over her alleged interference in the convent deal pending rulings from a California appeals court and the Vatican.
Unsurprisingly, lawyers for Perry and the rest of the convent said there was no need to delay the estimated 5-day trial, expected to begin Oct. 24.
In 2015, Perry filed a cross-complaint in the LA Archdiocese’s legal battle against Hollister through her company Birds Nest, claiming that the developer, an “opportunistic” restaurateur, was manipulating the nuns who are intervenors in the case.
At the morning hearing, the sisters and Hollister looked on from the courtroom as Hollister’s attorney Rick Juckniess argued that the Archdiocese should be ordered to amend its complaint against his client or dismiss the case altogether because he said Perry could not satisfy the terms of her contract with the Archdiocese. The contract included an agreement for Birds Nest to buy the Chateau Emanuel Hill property for the Archdiocese to use as a house of prayer for priests.
In an Aug. 15 declaration, Perry’s attorney Eric Rowan said the Hill property is “completely irrelevant” to the case against the developer, and claimed Hollister had put in an offer for the Hill property to interfere with Birds Nest.
“(T)he Hill property is no longer even part of the Bird Nest transaction, and plaintiffs and Bird Nest are in the process of amending the [purchase and sale agreement] to permit Bird Nest to purchase a substitute property other than the Hill property for use as the new location for the house of prayer,” Rowen wrote.
Archbishop José Gómez’s attorney Kirk Dillman asked LA County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick to keep the trial at Oct. 24.
“It would be a fool’s errand to hold up proceedings” pending a ruling in Rome, Dillman said.
After the hearing, Dillman’s colleague Michael Hennigan said that there was no question the terms of the deal had not been satisfied, but said that the Archdiocese is “trying to figure out an alternative.” He said the Vatican’s ruling would not change the complexion of the case against Hollister, who he said had clouded title to the property and trespassed.
“There’s no way she’s going to win that case,” Hennigan said.
But Juckniess said Perry’s bid to buy the Hill property was now in jeopardy and that the Archbishop’s deal with Perry was “dead.”
“The contract that was sued on is gone because the principal condition of that contract is gone. The claims should be decided in favor of Hollister because she always did act in good faith,” the attorney said outside the courtroom.
He said Hollister always believed the sisters had the authority to sell the convent.
Bowick said she would decide whether to delay the trial at a Sept. 19 hearing.
The Archdiocese had planned to buy the Hill property for $4.5 million using funds from the sale of the four-acre Waverly Drive convent.
In the contentious legal battle, the sisters’ interest in the Waverly Drive property was more than just financial after they publicly expressed their unease with a pop star who shot whipped cream from her bra in the video for “California Gurls” and played an elderly stripper in the “Birthday” music video.
Perry’s music career began with a Christian rock album, and she was raised in a devout evangelical family. That did not stop the nuns from claiming that she had dabbled in “witchcraft,” apparently because she participated in a 2014 Salem Witch Walk – a walking tour in the Salem area for tourists.
In a September 2015 court filing, Perry said she had no problem with the sisters, would preserve the convent as a “residential oasis” after purchasing it for $14.5 million and would let them stay for up to two years.
The nuns’ attorney John Scholnick told the court he expects the Vatican to rule on the case in two to three months.