Nuns removed from lawsuit over former convent

LOS ANGELES — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles won a round in court Oct. 23 when a judge ruled that two nuns who oppose singer Katy Perry’s attempt to buy a former convent in Los Feliz from the religious body can no longer take part in the ongoing litigation that also involves a businesswoman who unsuccessfully sought to purchase the sisters’ former home.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick granted a motion by the archdiocese to dismiss a breach of trust claim brought by Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, who maintained they sold the Waverly Drive property to businesswoman Dana Hollister in 2015 because they had the authority to do so. Bowick later canceled the sale.

Holzman 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 are against the sale of their former home to the 32-year-old “Roar” singer.

The property has 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 archdiocese.

John Scholnick, an attorney for the sisters, argued that he should be able to take part in the case despite the dismissal of his clients’ claim because they still have an interest in the outcome of the trial. He said later that the nuns may appeal.

In his court papers, Scholnick said the archdiocese failed to pay utility bills on behalf of the institute and channeled the sisters’ funds to the benefit of the archdiocese or to its delegates and favored business owners.

The archdiocese started the litigation by filing suit against Hollister in June 2015, stating that the businesswoman improperly recorded a grant deed against property owned by the plaintiffs and wrongfully interfered with the sale to Perry. The archdiocese is seeking about $3.5 million in damages and Perry is seeking about $2 million.

Callanan and Holzman later joined the litigation as intervenors and Perry, through her company, The Bird Nest LLC, did so via a cross-complaint.

The archdiocese said the archbishop’s approval was required before the former convent could be sold. Lawyers for the archdiocese and Perry filed separate motions asking that the singer be allowed to purchase the property without that part of the case having to be decided by a jury.

In two separate rulings, the second of which was upheld on Oct. 13 by the 2nd District Court of Appeal, the judge agreed with lawyers for the archdiocese and Perry by finding the two nuns’ sale of the property to Hollister was unauthorized by the archbishop.

Even with the rulings, both the archdiocese and Perry have some remaining claims against Hollister for slander of title, intentional interference with contractual relations and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Hollister has moved to dismiss those claims and a hearing was scheduled for Oct. 25 on that issue. Results weren’t available before press time.

If the Hollister motion is denied, jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 30.

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 a 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 has said.


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