Judge Clears Way for Perry Convent Purchase (Again)
LOS ANGELES–A judge yesterday doubled down on her previous ruling that the sale of a Waverly Drive convent in Los Feliz to local entrepreneur Dana Hollister was invalid, clearing the way for singer Katy Perry to purchase the property from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick issued her rulings March 14th. She heard arguments on February 27th and took the issues under submission.
Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman maintain they had authority to sell the Waverly Drive property to businesswoman Dana Hollister in 2015. The archdiocese says the archbishop’s approval was required before the former convent could be sold.
Lawyers for the archdiocese and Perry’s company, The Bird Nest LLC, filed separate motions asking that the singer be allowed to purchase the property without the case having to be decided by a jury.
“The court finds that the sisters did not have the authority to sell the property to Hollister,” Bowick wrote. “The Pope did not consent to the sale of the property to Hollister and there was no written approval from the Holy See or the archbishop.”
Even assuming that the nuns had authority to sell the property, they nevertheless “failed to validly consummate the transaction,” Bowick wrote.
“In sum, the court finds that the Hollister transaction is void because the documents purporting to consummate the sale and transfer of title were not validly executed,” Bowick wrote.
Lawyers for the nuns and for Hollister argued that a jury should decide the issues. Attorney John Scholnick, on behalf of Callanan and Holzman, said the parties have submitted affidavits that “squarely counter” the other side’s arguments and that therefore a trial was needed.
Meanwhile, the archdiocese praised Bowick’s ruling, saying their primary concern was always the welfare of the nuns who lived on the property.
“The main concern of the archdiocese is and has always been the care and well-being of all the IHM Sisters,” the archdiocese said in a statement released March 16th. “In 2014, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters agreed to have the archdiocese sell their former convent on their behalf.”
The property had been vacant since 2011 because it became too costly for the retired sisters to maintain and no longer accommodated their physical needs and the proceeds from any sale of the property would go to the IHM Institute, according to the statement.
Last April, Bowick issued a ruling that appeared to cancel the convent’s sale to Hollister and make it possible for Perry, now 32, to acquire the property. The judge agreed with the archdiocese that 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 reverse those orders.
In September, the appellate court chose not to reverse Bowick. But the judge did set aside her earlier 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 to file motions aimed at once again
enabling the sale to Perry.
Archdiocese lawyers told the judge that none of the information gathered by the two nuns’ attorneys warranted her deviating from last year’s ruling. Bowick agreed.
“The court finds that no new material facts have been presented in any of the supplemental briefing, oral argument, or original briefing for that matter, by the opposing parties … that creates a genuine issue of material fact …,” Bowick wrote.
Rose and Callahan are among five members of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and are the only members who oppose the sale of their former home to Perry.
The archdiocese 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. Callanan and Holzman later joined the litigation as intervenors and Perry, through The Bird Nest, did so via a cross-complaint.
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 $44,000 and agreed to a contingent promissory note, archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan said.
Even with the rulings, both the archdiocese and Perry have some remaining claims against Hollister that would be decided in a trial.
This story was updated 3/16/17 at 2:55 p.m. to include a statement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.