Religious Institution Practice

PRACTICE AREA CONTACTS: Thomas L. McCally, Kevin M. Murphy and Tina M. Maiolo

Carr Maloney has vast experience representing clergy and religious institutions of all denominations and faiths. Having represented religious institutions for more than two decades, Carr Maloney understands the unique issues facing all religious institutions today. They operate pursuant to individualized policy and procedure that give rise to distinctive treatment in the civil court system. The law treats religious institutions and spiritual leaders differently than it treats secular institutions and other individuals. Our decades of experience in this area make Carr Maloney distinctively qualified to handle any issue facing religious institutions, leaders, agencies, schools, clinics, charities and other affiliated associations or organizations.

Our lawyers regularly represent religious entities in state and federal trial and appellate courts and before administrative agencies. Our attorneys also advise, and often serve as outside general counsel to, religious institutions. These institutions call upon our attorneys to guide them through legal matters arising out of their daily operations. Our employment practice group counsels and represents religious institutions in all employment related matters.

We routinely represent religious clients in matters involving: the First Amendment, ownership and use of church property, detinue, conversion, fraud and misrepresentation, sexual misconduct, negligence, negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, intentional and negligent emotional distress, employment based discrimination and harassment and breach of contract. We are lead counsel in a significant Maryland case regarding ownership of local church property and the role of trust language in a hierarchical denomination’s governing documents. Over the years, we have also successfully defended high-profile sexual misconduct claims that resulted in precedent-setting appellate decisions in the areas of repressed memory and statutes of limitations.

Church Property

Ownership of church property is a critical issue facing all hierarchical denominations today. Carr Maloney has been at the forefront of such disputes. We represent divisions of a hierarchical denomination in a highly publicized church property dispute with a withdrawn local congregation. When the local congregation withdrew from the denomination, it claimed ownership of tens of millions of dollars worth of real and personal church property. In the course of this matter, we have developed First Amendment arguments regarding the Constitutional principal that civil courts cannot delve into the religious thicket of internal church governance and that the courts must adhere to express trust language in a church’s governing documents.

Repressed Memory Cases

Carr Maloney was lead counsel in Doe v. Maskell, 679 A.2d 1087 (Md. 1996), cert. denied, 117 S. Ct. 770 (1997), the first major appellate decision in the country on the issue of admissibility of evidence of repressed and recovered memories. This case involved several consolidated high profile lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who claimed that clergy members sexually abused them decades earlier. This groundbreaking case set the precedent for dismissal of such claims on the ground that they lack a scientific or medical basis. Our unique experience with repressed and recovered memory cases has been invaluable to our many clergy and religious institutional clients.

For information regarding publications and seminars by Carr Maloney, see Articles and News & Resources.