LOS ANGELES (CN) — A state court judge on Tuesday tentatively declined to reconsider a ruling that could allow pop star Katy Perry to purchase a convent for $15 million, in the face of letters that show the Vatican is still deciding the case.
In 2015, Perry’s company The Bird Nest sued developer Dana Hollister, who wanted to turn part of the Los Feliz, California-area property into a boutique hotel, after nuns Rita Callanan and Catherine Holzman resisted a sale to the “Roar” singer because they find her public image unappealing.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick ruled that Archbishop Jose Gomez and the Los Angeles Archdiocese, not the nuns, have the authority to sell the 8-acre property.
During a Tuesday morning hearing at which both Callanan and Holzman were present, Bowick said she is inclined to deny the nuns’ motion for reconsideration.
Perry was not present.
Bowick did not make the order final on Tuesday but took the case under submission after hearing arguments from lawyers for the archdiocese, Perry and the sisters.
“The court finds that intervenors have not met their burden to show that there are new or different facts, circumstances, or law to reconsider, and that any such evidence could not have been offered sooner,” Bowick wrote in the tentative order.
But the nuns’ lawyer John Scholnick insisted that two letters from church officials submitted to the court show that the Vatican will still weigh in on the dispute. At the morning hearing, he urged Bowick to reconsider or stay her ruling.
“There is no question that the matter is pending in front of the Vatican,” Scholnick told Bowick.
In the first letter, dated March 22 and addressed to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, church official Jose Rodriguez Carballo calls the case “unfortunate” and says that the sisters have submitted documents to support their case.
“We have responded to them informing them that we were seeking further information from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in order to conduct a comprehensive, objective study of the case,” writes Carballo.
In a second letter addressed to the sisters and dated March 30, official Sebastiana Paciolla tells the nuns that the Vatican is seeking more information from the archdiocese “in order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the case at hand.”
“Once all the information from both parties has been adequately studied we will inform you of our judgment regarding the matter at hand,” Paciolla writes.
Scholnick said he believed the archdiocese in Los Angeles knew the case was pending even though its attorney Michael Hennigan said otherwise at a Feb. 2, 2016, hearing on the motion for summary adjudication.
Hennigan is quoted in a court brief as saying that church officials in Rome had dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction and that there was “no evidence” it had was transferred to the Dicastery of the church, as the sisters asserted.
But Hennigan relied on an Italian ruling from the highest appellate tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church that was mistranslated, according to the sisters’ May 17 reply.
The sisters say that as early as Feb. 26, the archdiocese in Los Angeles knew that the sisters’ case was pending before officials in Rome.
But Hennigan, with the firm McKool Smith, urged the court not to delay the case further.
“Until there is action in Rome,” Hennigan said, “there is nothing for this court to consider or do anything about.”
Hennigan also accused the nuns of failing to disclose a Jan. 16 letter to church officials before the hearing on summary adjudication.
Perry’s attorney Eric Rowan meanwhile said that the newly submitted documents were a “red herring” and that Bowick should quickly make her order final.
“Please don’t wait. There’s no reason to wait. The bottom line is we’ve been waiting long enough,” the Greenberg Traurig attorney said.
Bowick appeared skeptical of Scholnick’s arguments both in her ruling and in court.
In her tentative ruling she wrote that the court “does not find any ‘lack of candor,’ misrepresentation or withholding of material information (inadvertent or otherwise), or deception on the part of plaintiff Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles or its counsel with respect to the motion for summary judgment proceedings.”
In the April ruling, Bowick granted the church’s motion for summary adjudication but stopped short of validating Perry’s offer on the convent.
Perry’s company claims that Hollister is an “opportunistic developer” who had persuaded the nuns they had authority to sell the property, though that power belongs to the archbishop.
When asked for her reaction to the hearing outside the courtroom Sister Holzman said, “So far, so good.”
The nuns’ spokeswoman Margaret Cone wrote in text message that “Archbishop Gomez is defying Pope Francis.”
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