This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 12/27/2021 at 01:36:44 (UTC).

LOS ANGELES KOREAN 1ST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CORPORATION, ET AL. VS JAE YEUN LEE, ET AL.

Case Summary

On 08/24/2021 LOS ANGELES KOREAN 1ST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CORPORATION, filed a Contract - Business lawsuit against JAE YEUN LEE,. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are MAURICE A. LEITER, JAMES C. CHALFANT and DAVID J. COWAN. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******1304

  • Filing Date:

    08/24/2021

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Business

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

MAURICE A. LEITER

JAMES C. CHALFANT

DAVID J. COWAN

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

KIM HOWARD SUNGJI

KIM SUN HWAN

LEE JAE YEUN

LOS ANGELES KOREAN 1ST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CORPORATION AKA LA KOREAN FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH A CALIFORNIA NON-PROFIT RELIGIOUS CORPORATION

LEE HAE KEUK

LEE VINCENT DAEKUN

LOS ANGELES KOREAN FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Defendants and Plaintiffs

KIM SUN HWAN

LEE DAE KUN

LEE HE KEUK

LEE JAE YEUN

SUH JOHN S.

CHUNG JAE MIN

HA SEOK HEE

KIM HOWARD AKA SUNG JI KIM

KIM SEUNG HYE

LEE SEUNG JIN

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

KIM ANDREW

KIM DAVID S

Defendant Attorneys

KIM KI HYON

FUSON TODD ANDREW

 

Court Documents

Notice of Case Management Conference

12/21/2021: Notice of Case Management Conference

Reply - REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO INVALIDATE THE APPOINTMENT OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR

12/1/2021: Reply - REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO INVALIDATE THE APPOINTMENT OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR

Objection - OBJECTION TO THE EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY HOWARD SUNGJI KIM RE: CORP. CODE 9418 MOTION

12/1/2021: Objection - OBJECTION TO THE EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY HOWARD SUNGJI KIM RE: CORP. CODE 9418 MOTION

Notice - NOTICE OF SUMMARY OF BYLAWS AND LEGAL POINTS OF AUTHORITIES

12/3/2021: Notice - NOTICE OF SUMMARY OF BYLAWS AND LEGAL POINTS OF AUTHORITIES

Notice - NOTICE OF FILING TRIAL DOCUMENTS AND MEMORY STICK

12/3/2021: Notice - NOTICE OF FILING TRIAL DOCUMENTS AND MEMORY STICK

Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE DEC. 14 HEARING DATE TO COMPLETE THE DISCOVERY

12/9/2021: Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE THE DEC. 14 HEARING DATE TO COMPLETE THE DISCOVERY

Opposition - OPPOSITION TO EX PARTE APPLICATION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM

12/9/2021: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO EX PARTE APPLICATION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION OF PLAINTIFFS TO CONTINUE THE...)

12/10/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION OF PLAINTIFFS TO CONTINUE THE...)

Order - DECISION ON PETITION TO CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF APPOINTMENT OF DIRECTORS

12/14/2021: Order - DECISION ON PETITION TO CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF APPOINTMENT OF DIRECTORS

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING RE: CHALLENGE TO VALIDITY OF DIRECTOR APPOINTMENTS PU...)

12/14/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING RE: CHALLENGE TO VALIDITY OF DIRECTOR APPOINTMENTS PU...)

Notice of Ruling

12/15/2021: Notice of Ruling

Notice - NOTICE OF RULING RE MOTION TO INVALIDATE ELECTION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR; COPY OF COURT'S ORDER ATTACHED

12/15/2021: Notice - NOTICE OF RULING RE MOTION TO INVALIDATE ELECTION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR; COPY OF COURT'S ORDER ATTACHED

Notice - NOTICE OF POSTING OF $500 CASH BOND FOR THE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

10/29/2021: Notice - NOTICE OF POSTING OF $500 CASH BOND FOR THE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Opposition - OPPOSITION TO THE MOTION TO INVALIDATE THE APPOINTMENT OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR

11/18/2021: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO THE MOTION TO INVALIDATE THE APPOINTMENT OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR

Opposition - OPPOSITION OPPOSITION TO THE EX PARTE APPLICATION) MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM; EXHIBITS

10/22/2021: Opposition - OPPOSITION OPPOSITION TO THE EX PARTE APPLICATION) MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLARATION OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM; EXHIBITS

Reply - REPLY DEFENDANTS REPLY IN SUPPORT OF ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

10/25/2021: Reply - REPLY DEFENDANTS REPLY IN SUPPORT OF ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Order - DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION: GRANTED

10/28/2021: Order - DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION: GRANTED

Order - ORDER OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

10/28/2021: Order - ORDER OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

49 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 02/14/2022
  • Hearing02/14/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department 54 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Case Management Conference

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  • 12/21/2021
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/15/2021
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation (Plaintiff); Howard Sungji Kim (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/15/2021
  • DocketNotice (of Ruling RE Motion to invalidate election of Howard Sungji Kim as Senior Pastor; Copy of Court's Order Attached); Filed by Jae Yeun Lee (Defendant)

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  • 12/14/2021
  • Docketat 1:30 PM in Department 85, James C. Chalfant, Presiding; Hearing on Motion - Other (TO INVALIDATE THE APPOINTMENT OF HOWARD SUNGJI KIM AS SENIOR PASTOR;) - Not Held - Clerical Error

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  • 12/14/2021
  • Docketat 1:30 PM in Department 85, James C. Chalfant, Presiding; Hearing - Other (ReChallenge to Validity of Director Appointments pursuant to Corporations Code section 9418) - Held

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  • 12/14/2021
  • DocketDecision on petition to challenge the validity of appointment of directors; Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/14/2021
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing Re: Challenge to Validity of Director Appointments pu...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/10/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 85, James C. Chalfant, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application (To Continue The Dec. 14 Hearing Date To Complete The Discovery) - Held - Motion Denied

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  • 12/10/2021
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Ex Parte Application of Plaintiffs To Continue The...)); Filed by Clerk

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57 More Docket Entries
  • 09/10/2021
  • DocketDeclaration (of David S Kim in support of Ex Parte for TRO and OSC); Filed by Jae Yeun Lee (Defendant); Dae Kun Lee (Defendant); He Keuk Lee (Defendant) et al.

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  • 09/10/2021
  • DocketEx Parte Application (for order fixing the hearing date; temporary restraining order and osc; declaration of john suh and jae yeun lee and david kim; declaration of todd fuson; proposed order); Filed by Jae Yeun Lee (Defendant); Dae Kun Lee (Defendant); He Keuk Lee (Defendant) et al.

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  • 09/10/2021
  • DocketNotice of Related Case; Filed by Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation (Plaintiff); Howard Sungji Kim (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/10/2021
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Court Order re: NOTICE OF RELATED CASE.)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 09/01/2021
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by JAE YEUN LEE (Plaintiff); SUN HWAN KIM (Plaintiff); VINCENT DAEKUN LEE (Plaintiff) et al.

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  • 08/26/2021
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/24/2021
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case; Filed by Clerk

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  • 08/24/2021
  • DocketSummons (on Complaint); Filed by Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation (Plaintiff); Howard Sungji Kim (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/24/2021
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation (Plaintiff); Howard Sungji Kim (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/24/2021
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation (Plaintiff); Howard Sungji Kim (Plaintiff)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: *******1304 Hearing Date: January 3, 2023 Dept: 54

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation, et al.,

Plaintiffs,

Case No.:

*******1304

vs.

Tentative Ruling

Jae Yeun Lee, et al.,

Defendants.

Hearing Date: January 3, 2023

Department 54, Judge Maurice A. Leiter

Motion to Substitute Attorney and/or Dismiss Action and Impose Sanctions

Moving Party: Defendants Jae Yeun Lee, Dae Kun Lee, He Keuk Lee, Sun Hwan Kim and John S. Suh

Responding Party: Plaintiff Howard Kim and Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation

T/R: THE MOTION IS DENIED.

DEFENDANTS TO NOTICE.

If the parties wish to submit on the tentative, please email the courtroom at SMCdept54@lacourt.org with notice to opposing counsel (or self-represented party) before 8:00 am on the day of the hearing.

The Court considers the moving papers, opposition, and reply.

Defendants move for an order substituting Defendants’ counsel, David S. Kim, as counsel for Plaintiff Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation, dismissing the action, and imposing monetary sanctions on Plaintiffs’ counsel, Mary Lee.

This is a dispute between two factions of the Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church concerning who may run the Church. On December 14, 2021, Judge Chalfant, in Department 85, ruled on Defendants’ petition to determine the validity of the Church’s election of directors. Judge Chalfant found that Plaintiff Kim had not been properly elected as Senior Pastor of the Church and that the pre-election Session members (here Defendant Lee) were the proper Session members. Judge Chalfant subsequently appointed a receiver to oversee a new election. After the election, the receiver was relieved.

Defendants assert that four church members ran to be Session members, but none received sufficient votes to be elected. Defendants represent that Defendant Lee is the only active Session member. Defendant Lee declares that he may make decisions on behalf of the church as the sole Session member. Lee also declares that on September 4, 2022, Lee made resolutions to dismiss this litigation on behalf of the Church and that Plaintiffs’ counsel, insofar as she represents the Church, be replaced by Defendants’ counsel, David S. Kim.

Defendants state that Plaintiffs’ counsel refuses to discontinue litigation, necessitating this motion. In opposition, Plaintiffs assert Defendants are in default and cannot file this motion. Plaintiffs also argue that Plaintiff Kim has standing to bring a derivative action on behalf of the Church under the Corporations Code. Plaintiffs note that Judge Chalfant suggested that the Church be named in this action (and Defendants consolidated action against Plaintiff) only as a nominal Defendant, but neither party made this change.

This Court agrees that this action would be better litigated as a derivative action. But Defendants have failed to establish that they are entitled to the requested relief or that the Court has the authority to grant the requested relief. Defendants are in default and may not seek this relief while in default. Nor do Defendants cite statutory or common law authority showing a defaulted Defendant can move for a substitution of counsel for the Plaintiff. Defendants also do not provide the Court with the actual corporate bylaws or resolutions made by Defendant Lee.

The Court suggests the parties meet and confer regarding amendment to the pleadings to establish a derivative action.

Defendants request sanctions against Plaintiffs’ counsel for refusing to remove herself as counsel and for filing the motion to waive Defendants’ answer, which was heard and denied by the Court on October 25, 2022. Defendants assert they complied with the Code of Civil Procedure’s safe harbor provision by notifying Plaintiffs’ counsel they would file a motion for sanctions if counsel did not withdraw the motion. CCP 128.5(f)(1)(B), 128.7(c)(1) states that notice of motion as provided in CCP 1010 must be served 21 days before it is served with the Court to allow the opposing party to withdraw the offending document. Sending an email stating Defendants would file a motion for sanctions is not a “notice of motion” under CCP 1010.

Defendants’ motion is DENIED.



Case Number: *******1304 Hearing Date: October 25, 2022 Dept: 54

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation, et al.,

Plaintiffs,

Case No.:

*******1304

vs.

Tentative Ruling

Jae Yeun Lee, et al.,

Defendants.

Hearing Date: October 25, 2022

Department 54, Judge Maurice A. Leiter

Motion for Leave to Waive Defendants’ Responsive Pleading

Moving Party: Plaintiff Howard Kim

Responding Party: Defendants Jae Yeun Lee, Dae Kun Lee, He Keuk Lee, Sun Hwan Kim and John S. Suh

T/R: THE MOTION IS DENIED.

PLAINTIFF TO NOTICE.

If the parties wish to submit on the tentative, please email the courtroom at SMCdept54@lacourt.org with notice to opposing counsel (or self-represented party) before 8:00 am on the day of the hearing.

The Court considers the moving papers, opposition, and reply.

Plaintiff moves for an order to “waive” Defendants’ responsive pleading. Plaintiff asserts Defendants said they would not file a responsive pleading, but Plaintiff does not want to seek entry of default judgment or default judgment.

The Court does not understand the reasoning behind this motion or its goal. More importantly, Plaintiff provides no authority that would allow the Court to “waive” the requirement that Defendants respond to the complaint.

Plaintiff’s motion is DENIED.



Case Number: *******1304 Hearing Date: June 7, 2022 Dept: 54

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Los Angeles Korean 1st Presbyterian Church Corporation, et al.

Plaintiffs,

Case No.:

*******1304

vs.

Tentative Ruling

Jae Yeun Lee, et al.,

Defendants.

Hearing Date: June 7, 2022

Department 54, Judge Maurice A. Leiter

Motion to Compel Deposition

Moving Party: Plaintiff Howard S. Kim

Responding Party: None

T/R: PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO COMPEL DEPOSITION OF DEFENDANT JOHN SUH IS GRANTED.

DEFENDAT SUH IS ORDRED TO APPEAR FOR DEPOSITION WITHIN 10 DAYS OF NOTICE OF RULING.

PLAINTIFF TO NOTICE.

If the parties wish to submit on the tentative, please email the courtroom at SMCdept54@lacourt.org with notice to opposing counsel (or self-represented party) before 8:30 am on the day of the hearing.

The Court considers the moving papers. No opposition has been received.

“If, after service of a deposition notice, a party to the action … without having served a valid objection under Section 2025.410, fails to appear for examination, or to proceed with it, or to produce for inspection any document, electronically stored information, or tangible thing described in the deposition notice, the party giving the notice may move for an order compelling the deponent's attendance and testimony, and the production for inspection of any document, electronically stored information, or tangible thing described in the deposition notice.” (CCP 2025.450, subd. (a).)

The motion must be accompanied by a good faith meet and confer declaration under section 2016.040 or, “when the deponent fails to attend the deposition and produce the documents, electronically stored information, or things described in the deposition notice, by a declaration stating that the petitioner has contacted the deponent to inquire about the nonappearance.” (CCP 2025.450, subd. (b)(2).)

Plaintiff moves to compel the deposition of Defendant John Suh. Plaintiff served Suh with deposition notices on February 2, 2022 and April 12, 2022. Plaintiff asserts Suh objected to each notice, failed to appear, refused to provide alternative dates and stated Suh would not appear for any deposition.

Plaintiff is entitled to take the deposition of Defendant Suh. Plaintiff’s motion to compel deposition is GRANTED.



b'

Case Number: *******1304 Hearing Date: December 14, 2021 Dept: 85

Los Angeles Korean First Presbyterian Church Corporation, et al. v. Jae Yeun Lee, et al., *******1304

Tentative decision on petition to challenge the validity of appointment of directors:

Cross-Complainants Jae Yeun Lee (“J. Lee”), Dae Kun Lee (“D. Lee”), Hae Keuk Lee (“H. Lee”), Sun Hwan Kim (“S. Kim”), and John S. Suh (“J. Suh”) apply for a determination of the validity of an election of directors.

The court has read and considered the moving papers,[1] opposition, and reply and renders the following tentative decision.

A. Statement of the Case

1. Complaint - *******1304

On August 23, 2021, Plaintiffs Church[2] and Howard Sungji Kim (“H. Kim”) filed suit against Defendants J. Lee, D. Lee, H. Lee, S. Kim, and J. Suh, alleging claims for (1) conversion, (2) trespass, and (3) declaratory relief and injunction. The verified Complaint alleges in pertinent part as follows.

In June 2020, the Church invited Plaintiff H. Kim to be its Senior Pastor. The Church had undergone several pastoral changes in recent years and the congregation members invited H. Kim, who was well known as a steady and sure leader for the Church.

According to the Church’s Bylaws, the Session consisted of Plaintiff H. Kim as the Chairperson and Defendant J. Lee and non-party Peter Shin (“Shin”) as members. Defendants J. Lee and Shin were the Serving Elders of the Church.

The Session held a meeting with Plaintiff H. Kim as its Chair and Defendant J. Lee and non-party Shin attending. In a resolution dated December 13, 2020, the Session agreed to list Plaintiff H. Kim as the Church’s Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”). The minutes also resolved that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, H. Kim’s status could not be confirmed by the General Meeting of the congregation. As the Senior Pastor position could not stay vacant for long, the Session decided to install Plaintiff H. Kim as the Senior Pastor with a later confirmation by the General Meeting when in-person worship services were permitted.

The Session’s resolution to install Plaintiff H. Kim as the Senior Pastor was published through the Church’s weekly program and announced through the on-air live stream broadcasting to congregation members during the first week of January 2021 worship service.

In April 2021, in-person worship services renewed on Easter Sunday.

On May 30, 2021, Defendants illegally formed a committee called the Management Committee without any legal basis in the Bylaws. This fostered confusion and disorder within the Church. Defendants then sought to invite Defendant J. Suh as the new interim Pastor.

Soon after, on or about June 15, 2021, Defendant J. Lee served Plaintiff H. Kim with resolutions by the Session to terminate his pastoral duties as of June 14, 2021. No Session ever convened on June 11, 2021 as stated in the resolution. Plaintiff H. Kim was the Chair of the Session and was never asked to convene a Session meeting. Similarly, K. Kim, as the Chairman of the Board of Directors (“Board”), was never notified of, or asked to convene, a Board meeting. Thus, any action to dismiss H. Kim was an illegitimate and illegal act.

Due to their acts of division and discord, H. Kim dismissed Defendants on June 20, 2021, in accordance with Article 16, section 4 and Article 30 of the Bylaws. This was confirmed by the Serving Committee, which is formed when the Session lacks a Serving Elder, in accordance with Article 4, Section 4 of the Bylaws.

On August 9, 2021, Defendant J. Lee and others entered the Church premises during the early morning hours. They changed all locks to the Church building, installed barriers to the offices, and removed a computer laptop, camcorder, CCTV (main unit), and books and records. Defendant J. Lee was accompanied by a private security guard who did not let anyone in from outside. On August 12, 2021 H. Kim replaced the illegally changed locks, discovered that items were missing, and filed a police report.

Subsequently, Defendants continued to enter the Church with the purpose of disrupting and causing Plaintiffs to be unable to orderly conduct its business of worshipping and other religious activities.

2. Complaint – 21STCV32559

On September 1, 2021, Plaintiffs Church, J. Lee, S. Kim, D. Lee, and H. Lee[3] filed suit against Defendants H. Kim, Jae Min Chung (“J. Chung”), Seok Hee Ha (“S. Ha”), Seung Jin Lee (“S. Lee”) and Seung Hye Kim (“SH. Kim”) alleging claims for (1) declaratory and injunctive relief re: Church’s property, (2) validity of election/appointment under Corporations Code section 9418, (3) breach of fiduciary duty, and (4) accounting. The verified Complaint alleges in pertinent part as follows.

The Church is a local church independent of greater Presbyterian organizations. As a local church, the Church’s affairs are governed by its Bylaws. As a California non-profit religious corporation, the Church’s business affairs are managed in compliance with the Corporations Code sections 9110 et seq. Accordingly, the Board manages, directs, and controls the Church’s assets and legal matters under the Church’s bylaws.

In July 2020, the Church, by and through a meeting of the Elders, invited Cross-Defendant H. Kim to be its temporary pastor. The Church never had any intention for H. Kim to become the permanent pastor.

In or around December 2020, H. Kim took steps to make himself the permanent Senior Pastor in violation of the Bylaws, which prescribe the procedure for electing a Senior Pastor. The Bylaws at Chapter 4 Article 10 ¶1 state that the “Senior pastor shall be employed by the absolute majority (2/3) in favor of the vote at the congregational meeting through the recommendation of Calling Committee and Session.”

H. Kim was never elected or voted by a congregational meeting. Instead, on December 13, 2020, H. Kim essentially voted himself as the permanent Senior Pastor, with no congregational vote, a fact that he admitted under oath in another case, LASC 21STRO02987.

In January 2021, H. Kim filed a new Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State on behalf of the Church in which he named himself as CEO.

In April 2021, H. Kim coordinated an alleged amendment of the Church Bylaws to amend the retirement age of the Senior Pastor from age 65 to age 70, which he needed because he was 65 years old. These actions were taken without meeting or approval of the Session. When the Session members (Cross-Complainants) complained, on June 15, 2021 H. Kim ordered each Cross-Complainant removed and excommunicated from the Church.

After H. Kim improperly removed Elders from on the Board, he replaced them with Deacons of his own choosing without any meeting or vote of the Session or congregational meeting. H. Kim’s actions violated the Bylaws because the removal of a Board member must be done by the Session. There was no Session meeting or resolution concerning the removal of the four Cross-Complainants.

The Session “consists of senior pastor and active elders” of the Church. The new Session members appointed by H. Kim – the other Cross-Defendants – were not properly elected pursuant to the Bylaws. They also were not eligible for election and appointment to the Board because Session members must be Elders. Elders are defined under the Bylaws and are distinct from Deacons because they are older and have more years of membership and service to the Church than Deacons. Further, an Elder must be elected by a 2/3 majority of the congregational meeting; a Church member cannot simply be appointed or deemed an Elder without a congregational election.

Cross-Complainants recently filed an Amended Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State which listed the correct Officers of the Church. Cross-Defendants thereafter filed yet another amendment to the Statement of Information, listing H. Kim as CEO and the other Cross-Defendants as Officers of the Church.

Cross-Defendants intend to use their position of leadership to gain control over the Church’s monetary assets and real property to use those funds for their own individual gain. Cross-Complainants allege that Cross-Defendant H. Kim and others also are using the Church address as front for immigration fraud. The Church was visited by the United States Department of Homeland Security (“Homeland Security”) concerning an investigation into the use of the Church address as the address for a bogus company to commit immigration fraud. Cross-Defendants have purposefully allowed the Church’s address to be used in participation of the immigration fraud.

Cross-Complainants contend that they, as the correct and true Board, have the right to possess, control, and manage the Church property.

3. Course of Proceedings

On September 17, 2021, the court consolidated the two cases. The court emphasized that the only claim it would hear is the validity of appointment/election under Corporations Code section 9418.

Also on September 17, 2021, the court denied Cross-Complainants’ ex parte application for temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and order to show cause re: preliminary injunction (“OSC”) as the court has no jurisdiction over who should be the Church’s Pastor and there was no showing of emergency to justify ex parte relief.

Cross-Complainants renewed their ex parte application for a TRO/OSC on October 8, 2021, which the court granted. The TRO permitted Cross-Complainants to attend Church services only if they are Church members. If Cross-Complainants are not members, Cross-Defendants could ask them to leave and/or call the police to exclude them. The court set the OSC and Cross-Defendants’ counsel accepted service of the Summons, Complaint, moving papers, and TRO/OSC.

On October 15, 2021, Cross-Complainants applied ex parte for an OSC re: contempt for Cross-Defendants’ violation of the TRO. The court denied the OSC re: contempt but modified the TRO such that Cross-Defendants must allow Cross-Complainants to attend Cross-Defendants’ Church services without exclusion for non-membership or ex-communication. Cross-Complainants may not conduct their own services in the Church. The anti-harassment provision of the TRO remained in effect.

On October 28, 2021, the court granted a preliminary injunction restraining Cross-Defendants from (1) blocking any worshippers from access to the Church, (2) verbally or physically harassing any worshippers, (3) encouraging any Church member from doing the prohibited actions, and (4) preventing Cross-Complainants and their aligned faction to enter and worship in the Church. Cross-Defendants may not prevent anyone aligned with Cross-Complainants from entering and worshipping with them at Cross-Defendants’ services but may prevent separate services on Church premises.

B. Non-Profit Religious Corporation Law

The Nonprofit Religious Corporation Law governs the affairs of California nonprofit religious corporations. Corporations Code[4] ;9110 et seq. Bylaws may be adopted and are the rules used or recognized for the regulation or management of the affairs of the corporation. ; 9150(a),(b).

1. The Board of Directors

Subject to any provisions in the articles or bylaws, each corporation shall have a board of directors. ;9210(a). The activities and affairs of a corporation shall be conducted, and all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the direction of the board. ;9210(a). The articles or bylaws may provide for the tenure, election, selection, designation, removal, and resignation of directors. ;9220(a).

2. Meetings and Voting

In absence of a contrary provision in the articles or bylaws, the provisions of Corporations Code section 9410 et seq. shall apply to any regular or special meeting of members or obtaining approval of members or approval of a majority of members. The articles or bylaws may provide any reasonable method of calling, noticing, and holding such meetings or obtaining such approvals. ;9410(a).

Any action which may be taken at any regular or special meeting of members may be taken without a meeting if the written ballot of every member is solicited, and if the required number of signed approvals in writing, setting forth the action so taken, is received. ;9413(a). Approval by written ballot pursuant to section 9413 shall be valid only when the number of ballots cast on or before the time the ballot must be returned to be counted equals or exceeds the quorum required to be present at a meeting authorizing the action, and the number of approvals equals or exceeds the number of votes that would be required to approve at a meeting at which the total number of votes cast was the same as the number of ballots cast. ;9413(c).

Any action required or permitted to be taken by the members may be taken without a meeting if all members shall individually or collectively consent in writing to the action. ;9420. The written consent or consents shall be filed with the minutes of the proceedings of the members. ;9420. The action by written consent shall have the same force and effect as the unanimous vote of the members. ;9420.

If for any reason it is impractical for any corporation to call or conduct a meeting of its members, then the superior court upon petition may order that such a meeting be called. ;9414.

3. Challenges to the Validity or Appointment of a Director

Upon the filing of an action therefor by any director or member, or by any person who had the right to vote in the election at issue after such director, member, or person has exhausted any remedies provided in the articles or bylaws, the superior court of the proper county shall determine the validity of any election or appointment of any director of any corporation. ;9418(a).

The Legislature provided for a summary proceeding in which the court may determine the person entitled to the office of director of a corporation, may order a new election to be held or appointment to be made, may determine the validity, effectiveness and construction of voting agreements and voting trusts as well as the validity of the issuance of shares and the right of persons to vote, and provide such other relief as may be just and proper. ;9418(c). The court shall try the matter in a summary fashion, within five days, before any other proceedings are had. Corp. Code ;9418(b).

C. Governing Constitutional Principles

The operation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution mandates that courts defer to the decisions of ecclesiastical courts or tribunals when such bodies make determinations which touch and concern matters of religious doctrine, including the governance, administration, and adjudication of the internal affairs of ecclesiastical institutions. See, e.g., Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Millivojevich, (1976) 426 U.S. 696, 724-25; Korean United Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of the Pacific, (“Korean United”) (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 480, 502; and Korean Philadelphia Presbyterian Church v. California Presbytery, (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1069, 1089.

The California Supreme Court has adopted the “neutral principles of law” approach for resolving intra-church disputes. In re Episcopal Church Cases, (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467, 479-81, 485 (hierarchical church owns real property for which local church held recorded title); Iglesia Evangelica Latina, Inc. v. Southern Pacific Latin American District of the Assemblies of God, (“Iglesia”) (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 420, 435, 439-40. If resolution of a property dispute involves a point of church doctrine, the court must “defer to the position of the highest ecclesiastical authority.” In re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 485. Issues relating to a religious organization’s governance of its internal affairs are appropriately matters for the ecclesiastical adjudicatory bodies of that organization, and the court must defer to the decisions of those bodies. Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Millivojevich, supra, 426 U.S. at 724-25; Korean United, supra, 230 Cal.App.3d. at 500. A religious organization’s constitution and bylaws includes its canons, constitutions, rules of other bodies, church traditions if sufficiently ascertainable, rules of a religious superior, and similar sources. In re Episcopal Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 484; New v. Kroger, (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 800, 822 (citations omitted). Civil courts must accept a hierarchical church’s interpretation of its own rules and canons. New v. Kroger, supra, 167 Cal.App.4th at 825. Even when a church dispute involves questions of property ownership, the court must defer to the authoritative decisions of hierarchical ecclesiastical bodies on any matters of internal church polity necessarily involved in resolving the issue. In Re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 484; Concord Christian Center v. Open Bible Standard Churches, (“Concord”) (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1412.

If a court can resolve a property or corporate disputes without deciding a point of church doctrine, then the court may decide the issue by applying neutral principles of civil law. In re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 467; Iglesia, supra, 173 Cal.App.4th at 435, 439-40. When adjudicating property disputes, it is proper for the court to apply neutral principles of law rather than deferring to the adjudicatory bodies of the relevant ecclesiastical organizations. See, e.g., Jones v. Wolf, (1979) 443 U.S. 595, 604 (a state is constitutionally entitled to adopt neutral principles of law as a means of adjudicating a church property dispute and holding that application of acceptable neutral-principles analysis involves the examination of certain religious documents for language purporting to create trusts in favor of the general church), and id. at 602 (“First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice, instead requir[ing] that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization, but that [s]ubject to these limitations, ...the First Amendment does not dictate that a state must follow a particular method of resolving church property disputes”).

In making decisions about property ownership, the court should consider deeds to the property, the local church’s articles of incorporation, the general church’s constitution, canons, and rules, and relevant statutes. In re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 484. Although the First Amendment proscribes courts from being involved in disputes over church doctrine, and courts must defer to the position of the highest ecclesiastical authority on questions of religious doctrine, a church cannot ignore its corporate form and duty to observe statutory corporate formalities. Iglesia, supra, 173 Cal.App.4th at 433-35 (church had not complied with statutory requirements in board elections).

C. Statement of Facts

1. Cross-Complainants’ Evidence

Cross-Complainant J. Lee has been a member of the Church since 2001. J. Lee Decl., ¶2. In 2018, J. Lee became an Elder and has been an Elder ever since. J. Lee Decl., ¶2.

The Church’s Bylaws govern the operation of the Church and its functions. J. Lee Decl., ¶3, Ex. A.

a. Initial and Temporary Invitation to H. Kim

In July 2020, the Church, through a meeting of its Elders, invited Cross-Defendant H. Kim to be a guest, or temporary, pastor for the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶4. There was never any intention for H. Kim to become the permanent pastor. J. Lee Decl., ¶4.

b. H. Kim’s Steps to Appoint Himself as Senior Pastor

In December 2020, H. Kim took steps to make himself the permanent Senior Pastor in violation of the Church’s Bylaws. J. Lee Decl., ¶5. H. Kim’s actions are improper and void. J. Lee Decl., ¶5.

The Bylaws require that the senior pastor be employed by the absolute majority (2/3) in favor of the vote at the congregational meeting through the recommendation of a Calling Committee and the Session. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 6, Ex. A, ch. 4 art. 10 ¶1.

H. Kim was never elected or voted by a congregational meeting. J. Lee Decl., ¶7. Instead, on December 13, 2020, H. Kim voted himself to be the permanent Senior Pastor with no congregational vote. J. Lee Decl., ¶7. H. Kim admitted as much while under oath. Kim Decl., ¶3, D. Kim, ¶3, Ex. A, p. 9, 17.

In January 2021, H. Kim filed a new Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State and named himself as the Church’s CEO. J. Lee Decl., ¶8.

In April 2021, H. Kim coordinated an alleged amendment to the Church’s Bylaws to amend the retirement age of the senior pastor from age 65 to 70. J. Lee Decl., ¶8. H. Kim is currently 65 years old. J. Lee Decl., ¶8.

All these actions were taken without meeting or approval of the Session. J. Lee Decl., ¶9. When Session members (Cross-Complainants) complained on June 15, 2021, H. Kim ordered each of them removed and excommunicated. J. Lee Decl., ¶9.

c. Replacement of the Board of Directors

After H. Kim improperly removed Elders who were on the Church’s Board, he replaced them with deacons of his own choosing. J. Lee Decl., ¶10. Cross-Complainant J. Lee is among the Elders improperly removed. J. Lee Decl., ¶10.

This was a violation of the Bylaws. J. Lee Decl., ¶10. Removal of an officer from his duties as a Board member must be done by the Session. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 10, Ch. 10, art. 31. The Church session consists of senior pastor and active Elders of the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 10; Ex. A, Ch. 2, art. 4 ¶1. The Bylaws state that the Session takes charge of Church membership, finance, administration, public relations, discipline, management of property of church, and other matters. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 10; Ex. A, Ch. 2, art. 4 ¶2. There was no Session meeting nor any Session resolution concerning the removal of the four Board members (Cross-Complainants). J. Lee Decl., ¶10. H. Kim acted on his own in dismissing the Board members. J. Lee Decl., ¶10.

H. Kim’s replacement Board members (Cross-Defendants) were not properly elected pursuant to the Bylaws. J. Lee Decl., ¶11. They were not elected at all and are not eligible for election and appointment to the Board. J. Lee Decl., ¶11. Session members must be Elders. J. Lee Decl., ¶11. Elders are distinct from deacons because they are older and have more years of membership and service to the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 11; Ex. A, Ch. 4, art. 11 (Elder) and art. 13 (deacon). A church member also must be elected by a 2/3 majority of the congregational meeting to be an Elder. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 11; Ex. A, art. 11, ¶1. A church member cannot simply be appointed or deemed an Elder without a congregational election. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 11; Ex. A, art. 11, ¶1. The Church members appointed by H. Kim to replace the true Board are only deacons and not eligible to sit on the Board even if they had been properly elected. J. Lee Decl., ¶12. The true members of the Board are each properly elected Elders of the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶12.

d. Further Violations by H. Kim and His Board

Cross-Complainants recently filed an Amended Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State. J. Lee Decl., ¶13, Ex. B. It lists the correct Officers of the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶13, Ex. B. Cross-Defendants thereafter filed yet another amendment to the Statement of Information, listing H. Kim as CEO and the other named Cross-Defendants as officers of the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶13, Ex. B.

Cross-Defendants have committed several violations of the Church Bylaws, as well as moral lapses that violate the expressed purpose of the Church to glorify God, to protect the Church, to purify the Church, and to raise the virtue of the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶¶ 3, 14, Ch. 1 art. 2, Ch. 10 art. 29, art. 30.

Cross-Defendants are working together to gain control of the Church so that they can access and use for their own personal benefit the Church’s cash funds of approximately $170,000. J. Lee Decl., ¶15. Cross-Defendants are also preparing to refinance the Church’s property, valued at $10 million with no mortgage, in order to access funds for their own personal benefit. J. Lee Decl., ¶15.

Cross-Defendants are using the Church’s address, 213 S. Hobart Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90004, as a front for immigration fraud. J. Lee Decl., ¶16. The Church was visited by Homeland Security in an investigation of the use of the Church’s address as the address for “C Paper Co.” J. Lee Decl., ¶16. C Paper Co is a bogus company and the police said it was being used to commit immigration fraud. J. Lee Decl., ¶16, Ex. C (business card of immigration officer). Cross-Defendants have willingly and purposefully allowed the Church’s address to be used for immigration fraud purposes. J. Lee Decl., ¶16.

On September 4, 2021, Cross-Defendants moved control of the Church from its longstanding independent status to the control of Presbyterian Church of America or other National Presbyterian Organization, solely for the purpose of consolidating their power over the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶17. This action would severely compromise the independence of the Church and control of its physical and monetary assets. J. Lee Decl., ¶17.

2. Cross-Defendants’ Evidence[5]

H. Kim served as the Church’s temporary pastor in 2019 for a period of four months while the Church was looking for a Senior Pastor candidate. H. Kim Decl., ¶3; P. Shin Decl., ¶3. At that time, the Church was without a Senior Pastor. While the Church was searching, H. Kim was delivered the sermons. H. Kim Decl., ¶3.

After about a four month, the Church found a Senior Pastor candidate in Reverend Cha. H. Kim Decl., ¶3. H. Kim was no longer needed and he returned to the Orange County church where he ministered. H. Kim Decl., ¶3.

In May 2020, Reverend Cha left the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶3. The Church Elders, P. Shin and J. Lee, asked H. Kim to serve as a Temporary Senior Pastor until the convening of General Meeting to become permanent. H. Kim Decl., ¶4; P. Shin Decl., ¶3. H. Kim was assured that the age limit for 65 for the purpose of maintaining the Senior Pastor position would be extended to 70 years old at the next Congregational Meeting. H. Kim Decl., ¶4. This was important for H. Kim because he was going to be 65 within one year. H. Kim Decl., ¶4.

In June 2020, H. Kim started as Temporary Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 1,8. The Church had undergone several pastoral changes in recent years and the congregation members wanted H. Kim, who was well known from his previous temporary appointment. H. Kim Decl., ¶8.

As Temporary Senior Pastor, H. Kim became a member of the Session per Bylaws Ch. 2 art. 4 ¶1. H. Kim Decl., ¶5; P. Shin Decl., ¶3. H. Kim served as its Chair and Cross-Complainant J. Lee and non-party P. Shin were its members. H. Kim Decl., ¶9. Both Cross-Complainant J. Lee and P. Shin were Church Elders. H. Kim Decl., ¶9.

The Church’s annual Congregational Meeting was delayed due to COVID-19. H. Kim Decl., ¶6.[6] During a Session meeting on December 13, 2020, H. Kim was made the permanent Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶6; P. Shin Decl., ¶3. In the December 13, 2020 meeting, the Session also resolved that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a resolution by the Congregational Meeting confirming H. Kim as Senior Pastor could not be obtained. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 6, 9, Ex. 2. As reflected in the minutes, the office of the Senior Pastor could not stay vacant for long, and the Session decided H. Kim’s installation as the Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 6, 9, Ex. 2. Cross-Complainant J. Lee was present as the Secretary of the Session and approved the minutes of the Session meeting. H. Kim Decl., ¶6, Ex. 2.

The Session’s resolution to install H. Kim as the Senior Pastor was published through the Church’s weekly program and announced through the online live stream broadcasting to the congregation members during the first week of January 2021 worship service. H. Kim Decl., ¶6. H. Kim’s status as Senior Pastor also had been announced to outsiders through his name as Senior Pastor beginning October 2020 on a welcome post near the Church entrance. H. Kim Decl., ¶5.

Right after the December 13, 2020 Session meeting, H. Kim was named as the Church’s CEO in a Statement of Information filed with the Secretary of State. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 6, 9, Ex. 2.

As the Senior Pastor, Plaintiff H. Kim oversaw the daily operation of the Church and is familiar with all of its books and records, including financial matters. H. Kim Decl., ¶2.

The Church’s first in-person worship renewed on Easter Sunday in April 2021. H. Kim Decl., ¶7.

On May 30, 2021, Cross-Complainants formed a committee called the Management Committee without any basis in the Bylaws. H. Kim Decl., ¶8; P. Shin Decl., ¶5. They sought to invite J. Suh as the new interim Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶8. This action fostered a confusion and disorder within the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶8; P. Shin Decl., ¶5.

On June 15, 2021, J. Lee served H. Kim with a resolution by the Session to terminate his pastoral duty as of June 14, 2021. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 7, 9. This resolution was illegal as no Session was ever convened on June 11, 2021 as stated in the resolution. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 7, 9. As the Chair of the Session, H. Kim was never asked to convene or notified of a Session meeting. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 7, 9.

Cross-Complainants continued to foster division and discord within the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶10. On June 20, 2021, H. Kim had to excommunicate Cross-Complainants J. Lee, D. Lee, H. Lee, and S. Kim pursuant to Bylaws art. 16 ;4 and art. 30. H. Kim Decl., ¶10. The friction that led to their excommunication was on ecclesiastical grounds. H. Kim Decl., ¶7. The four Cross-Complainants acted in sympathy with the followers of apostasy named "Shinsado". H. Kim Decl., ¶7. H. Kim sought to reprimand them and eventually excommunicated them for teaching false Christian doctrines to children. H. Kim Decl., ¶7. Defendants, acting in sympathy, tried to engineer Plaintiff H. Kim’s expulsion from the post of Senior Pastor of the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶7.

The excommunication was confirmed by the Serving Committee which is formed when the Session lacks a Serving Elder, in accordance with Bylaw art. 4 ;4. H. Kim Decl., ¶10. The excommunication was published on the Church’s Sunday worship service program on August 22, 2021. H. Kim Decl., ¶10.

After the excommunication, the Session no longer existed because there was no Elder. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. H. Kim had to appoint Serving Committee members to serve as Board members in place of Session. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. H. Kim appointed J. Chung, S. Kim, and S. Ha in accordance with Bylaws Ch. 2, art. 4 ¶4. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. Each appointed person is a faithful believer who had demonstrated maturity and declaration for the Christian faith and the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. J. Chung is an ordained deacon and a candidate for Elder. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. S. Kim is a long serving Kwonsa, akin to a female Elder. H. Kim Decl., ¶11. S. Ha is a missionary. H. Kim Decl., ¶11.

An emergency Congregational Meeting was held on August 29, 2021 which confirmed H. Kim’s appointment as Senior Pastor and approved the resolution to join the Western Presbytery of U.S.A. H. Kim Decl., ¶12.

Thereafter, on September 15, 2021 the Church formally joined the Western Presbytery of U.S.A. H. Kim Decl., ¶12. The Western Presbytery of U.S.A. affirmed the excommunication of the four Cross-Complainants. H. Kim Decl., ¶12, Ex. 4.

D. Analysis

Pursuant to section 9418(a), Cross-Complainants seek to invalidate H. Kim’s appointment as Senior Pastor and his subsequent acts of (a) removing J. Lee as Elder of the Session and (b) excommunication of Cross-Defendants because these acts were carried out by H. Kim in his role as Senior Pastor. Pet. Op. Br. at 15.[7]

1. The Limitation on the Court’s Review

As set forth previously, the court cannot constitutionally decide who should be the religious leader of the Church, or who should be the clergy and members of the Church. See, e.g., Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Millivojevich, supra, 426 U.S. at 724-25. The court can decide who controls the property of the Church by applying neutral principles of law. In re Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 479-81, 485. A religious organization’s constitution and bylaws are the basis of such principles. In re Episcopal Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 484; New v. Kroger, (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 800, 822 (citations omitted). Although the First Amendment proscribes courts from being involved in disputes over church doctrine, a church cannot ignore its corporate form and duty to observe statutory corporate formalities. Iglesia, supra, 173 Cal.App.4th at 433-35.

Under this governing First Amendment law, the court cannot decide whether H. Kim is the Church’s correct senior pastor for purposes of his pastoral duties. Cross-Complainants contend that the election of the senior pastor is not an ecclesiastical issue and argue that they are not requesting the court to make any determination regarding religious governance; they are not asking the court to determine whether H. Kim is worthy of being senior pastor. Rather, they are asking the court to determine whether H. Kim acted in violation of the Bylaws in appointing himself Senior Pastor, and then subsequently acting as a Session member in dismissing Elder Lee and excommunicating Cross-Complainants. They argue that these issues are merely judicial interpretation of the governing Bylaws, without reference or dependence on any ecclesiastical issues. Pet. Op. Br. at 9-10; Reply at 3.

Although Cross-Defendants do not address this issue, the court concludes that Cross-Complainants are correct to some extent, but it depends on the context. When the senior pastor is in the role, or “wearing the hat”, of Board chairman, the question whether he was properly appointed under the Bylaws is a secular one. When the senior pastor is wearing his hat of religious leader, however, the question is ecclesiastical. The court cannot address the question of whether H. Kim was properly appointed as the Church’s religious leader.

Thus, the court can evaluate whether H. Kim is properly the Board (Sesson) Chair, but not whether he is the correct religious leader of the Church. It follows that the court cannot decide whether any Cross-Complainant was properly excommunicated from the Church; that is a purely ecclesiastical issue to which H. Kim’s status as Board Chair is irrelevant. With this limitation in mind, the court will address and apply the Church’s Bylaws.

2. The Bylaws

As a California nonprofit religious corporation, the Church must be managed in compliance with section 9110 et seq. Every nonprofit religious corporation must have governing documents, which are the “rules used, adopted, or recognized for the regulation or management of the affairs of the corporation irrespective of the name or names by which such rules are designated.” ;9150(a). Subject to any provision in its bylaws, “[e]ach corporation shall have a board of directors. The activities and affairs of a corporation shall be conducted, and all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the direction of the board.” ;9210(a). The bylaws of religious corporations may provide for the tenure, election, selection, and designation of directors. ;9220(a).

The parties agree that the Church is managed according to its Bylaws. There are no additional governing documents, for at the time of all events described the Church did not belong to any national Presbytery organization. Therefore, the governing rules of the Church in this case were, and are, its Bylaws. Pet. Op. Br. at 11.

a. The Session

Under the Bylaws, the “administrative organization” of the Church is the session. The session consists of the senior pastor and active elders, with the Senior Pastor as moderator. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 4.1. If there is no acting elder, a serving committee will act in place of Session to assist the Senior Pastor. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 4.4.

The session is charged with ecclesiastical and secular matters, as pertinent including the administration of Church finances, administration and management of Church property. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 3, 4. The session, together with a calling committee, also recommends the appointment of a senior pastor. Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 10.1. When it handles secular matters, the Session functions as a board of directors.

b. The Senior Pastor and Associated Pastor

The senior pastor is the moderator of the session, and the equivalent of a chairman of the board. The senior pastor is also the moderator of congregational meetings. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 6.1.

The election of a senior pastor occurs after a recommendation of a call committee and the Session. At a congregational meeting: “The congregational meeting discusses and resolves the following matters: … 2)...it shall discuss and resolve the matters of call, inauguration and commissioning of senior pastor.” Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 6.2.2. “The vote for call of pastor and the vote for election of elder and ordained deacon shall be resolved by the absolute majority (2/3) of the baptized members present at the meeting.” Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 6.2.4. “[The] senior pastor shall be employed by the absolute majority (2/3) in favor of the vote at the congregational meeting through the recommendation of Calling Committee and Session.” Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 10.1. “The [senior pastor’s] year of service shall be until November 30 of the year he reached full age of 65.” Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 10.1.

An associated pastor “shall be employed by the resolution of the Session with a recommendation by the senior pastor.” Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 10.3.

c. Elders, Deacons, and Kwonsas

An elder must be a male who is qualified by age and years of experience in the Church and elected by a 2/3 vote of members present at a congregational meeting. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 6.3; Ch. 4, Art. 11.1.1. A deacon has lesser qualifications of age and experience and must also be elected by a 2/3 vote of members present at a congregational meeting. Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 13.1. A kwonsa is a female member of the Church with somewhat different qualifications. Bylaws, Ch. 4, Art. 14.1.

An elder – but not a deacon or a kwonsa – may become a member of the session. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 4.1. An elder may be elected as a session member (other than the senior pastor, who is the chairman of the board) by a second 2/3 vote of members present at a Congregational meeting. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 6.4; Ch. 4, Art.11.1.

2. The Appointment of H. Kim as Board Chair

Cross-Complainants argue that the question is whether H. Kim was properly appointed as Board Chair. They point out that H. Kim admitted that he was brought into the Church as a temporary pastor and was not elected to be the Senior Pastor. Following his excommunication of Cross-Complainants, H. brought civil harassment claims against them. An evidentiary hearing on the charge against Cross-Complainant J. Lee was heard by a court on August 4, 2021. At the hearing, J. Lee’s counsel questioned H. Kim as follows:

“Counsel: MR. KIM. OKAY. IS IT TRUE THAT YOU WERE INVITED AS A PASTOR APPROXIMATELY JULY OF 2020 BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THIS CHURCH?

Kim: YES, THAT\'S CORRECT.

Counsel: AND IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BECOME A SENIOR PASTOR, IS IT TRUE THAT THERE HAS TO BE A CONGREGATION OF CHURCH MEMBERS, AND THEY VOTE YOU IN AS THE SENIOR PASTOR?

Kim: I NEEDED TO BE ELECTED IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, BUT, HOWEVER, WE WERE NOT ABLE TO HOLD THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY BECAUSE OF THE COVID.

Counsel: SO THE ANSWER IS, "YES," THERE HAS TO BE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BECOME A SENIOR PASTOR; TRUE?

Kim: YES. YES.

Counsel: HOWEVER, YOU GATHERED A FEW PEOPLE AND APPOINTED YOURSELF AS THE SENIOR PASTOR; TRUE?

Kim: NO.

Counsel: WITHOUT GENERAL ASSEMBLY, WHO APPOINTED YOU

AS THE SENIOR PASTOR OF THIS CHURCH?

Kim: I WAS -- IT WASN’T THE SENIOR PASTOR. I WAS INVITED TO BE THE TEMPORARY SENIOR PASTOR. I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ELECTED AS THE SENIOR PASTOR AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. HOWEVER, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY COULD NOT BE HELD BECAUSE OF COVID.” Kim Decl., Ex. A, p. 17. Pet. Op. Br. at 12-13.

Cross-Complainants argue that H. Kim’s admission under oath is that he was invited to be a Temporary Pastor and was never elected Senior Pastor. H. Kim’s excuse that the Congregational meeting could not be held because of COVID does not hold water. Section 9420 provides for situations where the members cannot or do not want to meet and allows for an action without meetings only if “all members consent in writing.” Section 9413 permits written ballots in lieu of meeting if various procedural requirements are met. Judicial intervention also is permitted under section 9414 “If for any reason it is impractical or unduly difficult for any corporation to call or conduct a meeting of its members, delegates or directors, or otherwise obtain their consent, in the manner prescribed by its articles or bylaws, or this part, then the superior court of the proper county, upon petition of a director, officer, delegate, or member, may order that such a meeting be called or that a written ballot or other form of obtaining the vote of members, delegates or directors be authorized. . . .” ;9414. Pet. Op. Br. at 13-14.

Cross-Complainants argue that H. Kim did not attempt any of these choices; he merely proclaimed himself Senior Pastor. Only days after H. Kim proclaimed himself Senior Pastor, he filed a new statement of information with the Secretary of State naming himself as the Church CEO. When Cross-Complainant J. Lee -- the only remaining active Elder -- questioned him, H. Kim unilaterally and without any vote or Congregational meeting – dismissed J. Lee as an Elder and excommunicated him and other senior Church members. This is exactly the situation that section 9418 was enacted to remedy.[8] Pet. Op. Br. at 14.

Cross-Defendants respond that H. Kim arrived in June 2020 as temporary Senior Pastor, not merely as Temporary Pastor. This is confirmed by the fact that he presided over the Session meetings immediately after arriving at the Church. Shin Decl., ¶¶ 3-4. H. Kim’s status as Temporary Senior Pastor was confirmed by that title on a welcome post near the entrance to the Church which has referred to him as Senior Pastor since Oct. 2020. H. Kim Decl., Ex. 1. Opp. at 3.

H. Kim’s confirmation as Senior Pastor by a Congregational meeting was delayed due to COVID. Due to the federal, state and local government shutdown mandates and other restrictive measures, the Church could not hold in-person Sunday worship services after March 2020 and well into 2021. After H. Kim’s arrival as Temporary Senior Pastor in June 2020, the Church’s worship services were conducted by online broadcasts. As a substantial percentage of Church members are senior citizens, the annual Congregational meeting could not be held on the usual date in December 2020. Many Church members also could not participate in an online meeting. Opp. at 3.

Cross-Defendants note that a serving committee may be formed when there is no active elder. As Cross-Complainant J. Lee continuously interrupted the worship service and tried to fire H. Kim and replace him with a pastor unrelated to the Church, J. Lee was dismissed from the Session and excommunicated. Without an active elder, the serving committee will act in place of the session to assist the senior pastor. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 4.4. H. Kim appointed the three-member Serving Committee and they do not need to be elders. Opp. at 5.

On December 13, 2020, the Session voted to remove the temporary designation and make H. Kim Senior Pastor, pending confirmation at a future Congregational meeting. Although Cross-Complainants accuse H. Kim of making himself the permanent Senior Pastor, the minutes show that Cross-Complainant J. Lee approved the minutes as the Secretary of Session. H. Kim Decl., ¶9, Ex. 2. Opp. at 3-4.

As a result, all of H. Kim’s actions in dismissing and excommunicating Cross-Complainants and appointing the Serving Committee cannot be challenged as the act of a non-senior pastor. Moreover, H. Kim’s actions are outside of the purview of section 9418 as they do not involve the issue of validity of any election or appointment of a director. Opp. at 4.

Finally, Cross-Defendants argue that a Congregational meeting was held on August 29, 2021 confirmed H. Kim’s status as permanent Senior Pastor, also voting to extend the retirement age of the Senior Pastor to age 70. H. Kim Decl., ¶12, Ex. 4. Opp. at 4.

The court accepts that H. Kim was brought to the Church as a temporary Senior Pastor and presided over Session meetings in that position. However, the argument that a Congregational meeting could not be held to elect him as Senior Pastor because of COVID-19 and government restrictions is untenable. As Cross-Complainants argue, the Church had various alternatives to an in-person Congregational meeting. H. Kim could have sought the Congregation’s consent to his appointment through the consent of all members in writing (;9420), an election could have been held through written ballots in lieu of a meeting (;9413), or the Church could have sought judicial intervention permitting an alternative procedure. (;9419). There were online Sunday services during 2020 and, just as notice was given of these weekly services, there could have been a notice of a Congregational meeting to elect H. Kim as Senior Pastor.

Additionally, H. Kim was not qualified to be Senior Pastor unless the Bylaws were amended by raise the maximum age of the Senior Pastor. This also required a 2/3 vote of the members present at a Congregational meeting. Bylaws, Ch.11, Art. 32.

Thus, H. Kim was not properly Senior Pastor for purposes of the Church’s secular activities during 2020-2021. Cross-Defendants’ argue that an August 20, 2021 Congregational meeting ratified H. Kim’s status as Senior Pastor. H. Kim’s declaration at paragraph 12 and Exhibit 4 are the only evidence of a Congregational meeting to raise the maximum age of the senior pastor and appoint H. Kim as Senior Pastor. No other witness claims that this meeting occurred. The minutes of this August 29, 2021 meeting show that H. Kim was approved as Senior Pastor by a 24 to 2 vote, which is more than 2/3 of those voting. Ex. 4. The minutes also show that an amendment to the Bylaws increasing the maximum age of the senior pastor to 70 was passed by “Consent vote and Supporting vote”. Ex. 4.

This evidence is insufficient to prove either that the Congregation ratified H. Kim as Senior Pastor or that the Bylaws were properly amended to increase the senior pastor’s maximum age. There is no evidence that the meeting was properly noticed and no other witness provides evidence of the meeting besides H. Kim. There is no evidence of how many members are in the congregation, what a quorum for the meeting would be, or that 2/3 of those actually present voted. The minutes show a 2/3 vote for H. Kim as Senior Pastor, but do not show a 2/3 vote to amend the Bylaws to raise the age limit.

This lack of evidence is particularly significant because the August 29, 2021 meeting took place after H. Kim removed Cross-Complainants as Session members and subsequently excommunicated them, which he should not have done. Only the session can discipline a Church member by removing him or her from duty or by excommunication. Bylaws, Ch. 10, Art. 31. Nor could H. Kim replace the removed Session members with Deacons who are not qualified under the Bylaws and were never elected by the Congregation.[9] As Cross-Complainants argue, the court cannot condone an election occurring only after all opposition is improperly eliminated. Reply at 4.

In sum, the evidence shows that H. Kim was never validly elected by the Congregation as Senior Pastor of the Church and the Bylaws were not properly amended to raise the maximum age of the Senior Pastor. H. Kim’s actions in removing and excommunicating Session members and appointing Deacons to replace them on the Session also violated the Bylaws. The result is that the former Session members (Cross-Complainants) should be the proper Session members.

However, the court cannot rule to this effect because Cross-Defendants are correct that the court is addressing only issues concerning the validity of any election or appointment of a director under section 9418(a). Opp. at 4. With the exception of J. Lee, Cross-Complainants do not ask the court to validate their appointment and wrongful removal from the Session. They also do not seek the court’s determination that the Deacons were wrongfully appointed to the Session. Finally, the court cannot rule on the excommunication of J. Lee or other Cross-Complainants, even though it violated the Bylaws.

Thus, the court’s ruling is limited to the determinations that H. Kim was not validly appointed as Senior Pastor and that his act of removing J. Lee as a member of the Session was invalid. Because the court cannot rule on the excommunication, it cannot order that J. Lee must be reinstated as an elder and member of the Session because a person clearly must be a member of the Church to be a Session member.

E. Conclusion

The Petition is granted in part. The court determines under section 9418(a) that H. Kim’s appointment as Senior Pastor and his subsequent removal of J. Lee as member of the Session are invalid. The court will discuss with counsel at hearing where the Church goes from here, including a new election and such other relief as may be just and proper. ;9418(c).

The case is ordered transferred to the I/C court (Dept. 54) to handle the remaining claims of the consolidated case.


[1] Cross-Complainants’ moving papers are untimely. On September 17, 2021, the court set specific deadlines for parties to file papers. Defendants’ moving papers were due on October 19, 2021 and were not filed and served until the next day. Defendants also untimely lodged a trial notebook, which was due December 3 and was not lodged until December 7, 2021.

[2] Both Complaints name Church as a Plaintiff. As the cases concern an issue of control, the Church should be named as a nominal Defendant, not a Plaintiff.

[3] The only Defendant in *******1304 not a Plaintiff in this case is J. Suh. To prevent confusion, Plaintiffs in this case will be referred to as “Cross-Complainants” and Defendants will be referred to as “Cross-Defendants.”

[4] All further statutory references are to the Corporations Code unless otherwise stated.

[5] Cross-Complainants object to Exhibits 1, 2, and 4 and the declarations referring to them, because they were not translated from Korean to English by an interpreter certified under oath by a qualified interpreter in violation of CRC 3.1110(g). Cross-Complainants acknowledge that may use a non-certified interpreter for good cause. ;68561. However, the interpreter should not have a conflict of interest. CRC 2.890(c). Exhibits 1, 2, and 4 were translated by Cross-Defendants’ attorney and Cross-Complainants contend that he has an actual conflict of interest. Cross-Defendants purport to cure this defect through subsequent translations by a certified court interpreter. As any defect has been cured and Cross-Complainants suffer no prejudice, the objections are overruled.

[6] H. Kim’s declaration repeats paragraph numbers 6-9 with different text.

[7] For some reason, Cross-Complainants do not seek to invalidate H. Kim’s appointment of several Deacons as Session members.

[8] Cross-Complainants contend that H. Kim knew that excommunicating J. Lee and the other Cross-Complainants would have a chilling effect on the Congregation and would likely cause members to leave the Church. This happened, and it also led to the violence depicted in the videos provided as evidence for the preliminary injunction that was granted on October 6, 2021. Pet. Op. Br. at 14.

Cross-Defendants respond that Cross-Complainants – in particular, J. Lee -- instigated harassment and violence, especially women members. Cross-Complainants also tried to overtake the worship podium with Defendant J. Suh, a pastor from another church, and were repelled by police. Opp. at 4-5.

The court need not resolve the issue of who is at fault for the violence – which is not germane to the section 9418 issue -- except to note that a deacon affiliated with Cross-Defendants clearly was guilty of assault in the videos viewed by the court.

[9] The court agrees with Cross-Defendants that, assuming H. Kim was Senior Pastor, he could appoint the Serving Committee after J. Lee was excommunicated. As an excommunicated Church member, J. Lee could not be an elder. Without an elder, a serving committee can be appointed to aid the senior pastor. Bylaws, Ch. 2, Art. 4.4.

'


b'

Case Number: *******1304 Hearing Date: October 28, 2021 Dept: 85

Los Angeles Korean First Presbyterian Church Corporation, et al. v. Jae Yeun Lee, et al., *******1304

Tentative decision on application for preliminary injunction: granted

Defendants Jae Yeun Lee (“J. Lee”), Dae Kun Lee (“D. Lee”), Hae Keuk Lee (“H. Lee”), and Sun Hwan Kim (“S. Kim”) apply for a preliminary injunction against Plaintiffs Howard Sun Ji Kim (“H. Kim”), Los Angeles Korean First Presbyterian Church Corporation (“Church”), and Jae Min Chung (“Chung”) enjoining them and their agents from (1) blocking or denying access to the Church premises by any worshippers, (2) verbally or physically harassing any worshippers, (3) encouraging any other Church member from doing these actions, and (4) preventing Defendants and their aligned faction from entering and worshiping in the Church.

The court has read and considered the moving papers, opposition,[1] and reply and renders the following tentative decision.

A. Statement of the Case

1. Complaint - *******1304

In June 2020, the Church invited Plaintiff H. Kim to be its Senior Pastor. The Church had undergone several pastoral changes in recent years and the congregation members invited H. Kim, who was well known as a steady and sure leader for the Church.

A session was held consisting of Plaintiff H. Kim as its Chair, Defendant J. Lee, and Peter Shin (“Shin”) as members (collectively “Session 1”). Defendants J. Lee and Shin were the Serving Elders of the Church. Plaintiff H. Kim became the Chairperson for the Session. The Session agreed to list Plaintiff H. Kim as the Church’s Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) through a resolution dated December 13, 2020. The minutes also resolved that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the confirmation of H. Kim’s status could not be confirmed by the General Meeting of the congregation. As the Senior Pastor position could not stay vacant for long, the Session decided to install Plaintiff H. Kim as the Senior Pastor, to be later confirmed by the General Meeting when in-person worship services were permitted.

The Session’s resolution to install Plaintiff H. Kim as the Senior Pastor was published through the weekly program of the Church and announced through the on-air live stream broadcasting to the congregation members during the first week of January 2021 worship service.

In April 2021, in-person worship services began with the Easter Sunday service.

On May 30, 2021, Defendants illegally formed a committee called the Management Committee without any legal basis in the Church’s bylaws. This fostered confusion and disorder within the Church. Defendants then sought to invite Defendant J. Suh as the new interim Pastor.

Soon after, on or about June 15, 2021, Defendant J. Lee served Plaintiff H. Kim with resolutions by a session (“Session 2”) to terminate the pastoral duty of Plaintiff H. Kim as of June 14, 2021. Session 2 was illegal as no session ever convened on June 11, 2021 as stated in the resolution. Plaintiff H. Kim was the Chair of the Session and was never asked to convene a Session meeting. Similarly, K. Kim, as the Chairman of the Governing Board, was never notified of, or asked to convene, a board meeting. Thus, any action to dismiss H. Kim was an illegitimate and illegal act.

Due to their acts of division and discord, H. Kim dismissed Defendants on June 20, 2021, in accordance with Article 16, section 4 and Article 30 of the bylaws. This was confirmed by the Serving Committee, which is formed when the Session lacks a Serving Elder, in accordance with Article 4, Section 4 of the bylaws.

On August 9, 2021, Defendant J. Lee and others entered the Church premises during the early morning hours. They changed all locks to the Church building, installed barriers to the offices, and removed a computer laptop, camcorder, CCTV (main unit), and books and records. Defendant J. Lee was accompanied by a private security guard who did not let anyone in from outside.

On August 12, 2021 H. Kim replaced the illegally changed locks, discovered that items were missing, and filed a police report.

Subsequently, Defendants continued to enter the Church with the purpose of disrupting and causing Plaintiffs to be unable to orderly conduct its business of worshipping and other religious activities.

2. Complaint – 21STCV32559[2]

The Church is a local church independent of greater Presbyterian organizations. As a local church, the affairs of the Church are governed by its bylaws.

As a California non-profit religious corporation, the Church’s business affairs are managed in compliance with the Corporations Code sections 9110 et seq. Accordingly, the Board manages, directs, and controls the Church’s assets and legal matters under the Church’s bylaws.

In July 2020, the Church, by and through a meeting of the Elders, invited Cross-Defendant H. Kim to be a temporary pastor for the Church. There was never any intention to have Cross-Defendant H. Kim become the permanent pastor.

In or around December 2020, H. Kim took steps to make himself the permanent Senior Pastor in violation of the Church’s bylaws, which prescribe the procedure for electing a Senior Pastor. Pursuant to the bylaws, at Chapter 4 Article 10 ¶1, the “Senior pastor shall be employed by the absolute majority (2/3) in favor of the vote at the congregational meeting through the recommendation of Calling Committee and Session.”

H. Kim was never elected or voted by a congregational meeting. Instead, on December 13, 2020, H. Kim essentially voted himself to be the permanent Senior Pastor, with no congregational vote, a fact that H. Kim has admitted under oath in LASC Case No. 21STRO02987.

In January 2021, H. Kim filed a new Statement of Information for the Church with the California Secretary of State, naming himself as CEO.

In April 2021, H. Kim coordinated an alleged amendment of the Church bylaws to amend the retirement age of the Senior Pastor from age 65 to age 70, which he needed because he was 65 years old. These actions were taken without meeting or approval of the Session. When the Session members (the Cross-Complainants) complained, on June 15, 2021 H. Kim ordered each of Cross-Complainants removed and excommunicated.

After H. Kim improperly removed Elders who were on the Board, he replaced the Board with Deacons of his own choosing without any meeting or vote of the Session or congregational meeting. H. Kim’s actions were in violation of the bylaws; removal of an officer from his duties as a Board member must be done by the Session. The Session “consists of senior pastor and active elders” of the Church. There was no Session meeting and no Session resolution concerning the removal of the four Cross-Complainants.

H. Kim’s replacement Session members – the other Cross-Defendants – were not properly elected pursuant to the bylaws and were not eligible for election and appointment to the Board because Session members must be Elders. Elders are defined under the bylaws and are distinct from Deacons. They are older and have more years of membership and service to the Church than Deacons. Further, an Elder must be elected by a 2/3 majority of the congregational meeting; a church member cannot simply be appointed or deemed an Elder without a congregational election.

Cross-Complainant recently filed an Amended Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State, listing the correct Officers of the Church. Cross-Defendants thereafter filed yet another amendment to the Statement of Information, listing H. Kim as CEO and the other named Cross-Defendants as Officers of the Church.

Cross-Defendants intend to use their position of leadership to gain control over the Church’s monetary assets and real property to use those funds for their own individual gain.

Cross-Defendant H. Kim and others also are using the Church address as front for immigration fraud. The Church was visited by the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security concerning an investigation into the use of the Church address as the address for “C Paper Co,” a bogus company which the police said was being used to commit immigration fraud. Cross-Defendants are involved in this criminal enterprise and have purposefully allowed the Church’s address to be used in participation of the immigration fraud.

Cross-Complainants contend that the Church, by and through themselves as the correct and true Board, have the right to possess, control and manage the Church property.

3. Course of Proceedings

On September 17, 2021, the court ordered the two cases to be consolidated. This court emphasized that the only claim this court would hear is the claim concerning the validity of Board appointment/election under Corporations Code section 9418.

Also on September 17, 2021, Defendants’ ex parte application for temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and order to show cause re: preliminary injunction (“OSC”) was denied as the court has no jurisdiction over who should be pastor and there was no showing of emergency to justify ex parte relief.

Defendants renewed their ex parte application for a TRO and OSC on October 8, 2021, which the court granted. The TRO permitted Defendants to attend the church services only if they are church members. If Defendants are not members, Plaintiffs could ask them to leave and/or call the police to exclude them. The court set the OSC for the instant date. Plaintiffs’ counsel accepted service of the Summons, Complaint, moving papers, and TRO/OSC.

On October 15, 2021, Defendants applied ex parte for an OSC re: contempt for Plaintiffs’ violation of the TRO. The court denied the OSC re: contempt, but modified the TRO such that the Plaintiffs must allow Defendants to attend Plaintiffs’ church services without exclusion for non-membership or ex-communication. Defendants may not conduct their own church services in the Church. The anti-harassment provision of the TRO remains in effect.

B. Preliminary Injunction

An injunction is a writ or order requiring a person to refrain from a particular act; it may be granted by the court in which the action is brought, or by a judge thereof; and when granted by a judge, it may be enforced as an order of the court. CCP ;525. An injunction may be more completely defined as a writ or order commanding a person either to perform or to refrain from performing a particular act. See Comfort v. Comfort, (1941) 17 Cal.2d 736, 741. McDowell v. Watson, (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 1155, 1160.[3] It is an equitable remedy available generally in the protection or to prevent the invasion of a legal right. Meridian, Ltd. v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., (1939) 13 Cal.2d 424.

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo pending final resolution upon a trial. See Scaringe v. J.C.C. Enterprises, Inc., (1988) 205 Cal.App.3d 1536. Grothe v. Cortlandt Corp., (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 1313, 1316; Major v. Miraverde Homeowners Assn., (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 618, 623. The status quo has been defined to mean the last actual peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. Voorhies v. Greene (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 989, 995, quoting United Railroads v. Superior Court, (1916) 172 Cal. 80, 87. 14859 Moorpark Homeowner’s Assn. v. VRT Corp., (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 1396. 1402.

A preliminary injunction is issued after hearing on a noticed motion. The complaint normally must plead injunctive relief. CCP ;526(a)(1)-(2).[4] Preliminary injunctive relief requires the use of competent evidence to create a sufficient factual showing on the grounds for relief. See e.g. Ancora-Citronelle Corp. v. Green, (1974) 41 Cal.App.3d 146, 150. Injunctive relief may be granted based on a verified complaint only if it contains sufficient evidentiary, not ultimate, facts. See CCP ;527(a). For this reason, a pleading alone rarely suffices. Weil & Brown, California Procedure Before Trial, 9:579, 9(ll)-21 (The Rutter Group 2007). The burden of proof is on the plaintiff as moving party. O’Connell v. Superior Court, (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 1452, 1481.

A plaintiff seeking injunctive relief must show the absence of an adequate damages remedy at law. CCP ;526(4); Thayer Plymouth Center, Inc. v. Chrysler Motors, (1967) 255 Cal.App.2d 300, 307; Department of Fish & Game v. Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation Dist., (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 1554, 1565. The concept of “inadequacy of the legal remedy” or “inadequacy of damages” dates from the time of the early courts of chancery, the idea being that an injunction is an unusual or extraordinary equitable remedy which will not be granted if the remedy at law (usually damages) will adequately compensate the injured plaintiff. Department of Fish & Game v. Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation Dist., (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 1554, 1565.

In determining whether to issue a preliminary injunction, the trial court considers two factors: (1) the reasonable probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits at trial (CCP ;526(a)(1)), and (2) a balancing of the “irreparable harm” that the plaintiff is likely to sustain if the injunction is denied as compared to the harm that the defendant is likely to suffer if the court grants a preliminary injunction. CCP ;526(a)(2); 14859 Moorpark Homeowner’s Assn. v. VRT Corp., (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 1396. 1402; Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro v. Schectman, (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 1279, 1283; Davenport v. Blue Cross of California, (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 435, 446; Abrams v. St. Johns Hospital, (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 628, 636. Thus, a preliminary injunction may not issue without some showing of potential entitlement to such relief. Doe v. Wilson, (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 296, 304. The decision to grant a preliminary injunction generally lies within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. Thornton v. Carlson, (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 1249, 1255.

A preliminary injunction ordinarily cannot take effect unless and until the plaintiff provides an undertaking for damages which the enjoined defendant may sustain by reason of the injunction if the court finally decides that the plaintiff was not entitled to the injunction. See CCP ;529(a); City of South San Francisco v. Cypress Lawn Cemetery Assn., (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 916, 920.

C. Governing Legal Principles

The operation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution mandates that the California courts defer to the decisions of ecclesiastical courts or tribunals when such bodies make determinations which touch and concern matters of religious doctrine, including the governance, administration, and adjudication of the internal affairs of ecclesiastical institutions. See, e.g., Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Millivojevich, (1976) 426 U.S. 696, 724-25; Korean United Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of the Pacific, (“Korean United Presbytery”) (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 480, 502; Korean Philadelphia Presbyterian Church v. California Presbytery, (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 1069, 1089.

Issues relating to a religious organization’s governance of its internal affairs are appropriately matters for the ecclesiastical adjudicatory bodies of that organization, and the court must defer to the decisions of those bodies. Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Millivojevich, supra, 426 U.S. at 724-25; Korean United Presbytery, supra, 230 Cal.App.3d. at 500. Even when a church dispute involves questions of ownership of property and other assets, civil courts must defer to the authoritative decisions of hierarchical ecclesiastical bodies on any matters of internal church policy necessarily involved in resolving the issue. Episcopal Church Cases, (2009) 45 Cal.4th 467, 484; Concord Christian Center v. Open Bible Standard Churches, (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1412.

However, when adjudicating matters amongst churches which are susceptible to the application of neutral principles of law, such as property disputes, it is proper for the civil courts to apply those principles to the dispute, rather than deferring to the adjudicatory bodies of the relevant ecclesiastical organizations. See, e.g., Jones v. Wolf, (1979) 443 U.S. 595, 604 (“a state is constitutionally entitled to adopt neutral principles of law as a means of adjudicating a church property dispute” and holding that application of acceptable neutral-principles analysis involves the examination of certain religious documents for language purporting to create trusts in favor of the general church), and id. at 602 (First Amendment “prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice,” instead “requir[ing] that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization,” but that “[s]ubject to these limitations, ...the First Amendment does not dictate that a state must follow a particular method of resolving church property disputes”).

In making the decision of property ownership, the court should consider deeds to the property, the local church’s articles of incorporation, the general church’s constitution, canons, and rules, and relevant statutes. Episcopal Church Cases, supra, 45 Cal.4th at 484. Although the First Amendment proscribes courts from being involved in disputes over church doctrine, and courts must defer to the position of the highest ecclesiastical authority on questions of religious doctrine, a church cannot ignore its corporate form and duty to observe statutory corporate formalities. Iglesia Evangelica Latina, Inc. v. Southern Pacific Latin American District of the Assemblies of God, et al., (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 420, 433-35 (church had not complied with statutory requirements in board elections). A religious organization’s constitution and bylaws includes “canons, constitutions, or rules of other bodies, church traditions if sufficiently ascertainable; rules of a religious superior; and similar sources...” New v. Kroger, (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 800, 822 (citations omitted). Further, “civil courts must accept the leaders’ of hierarchical churches interpretation of their own rules and canons.” Id. at 825.

In Metropolitan Philip v. Steiger, (“Metropolitan”) (2000) 82 Cal.App.4th 923, a local church was part of a group of 17 national alliance of churches known as the Evangelical Orthodox Church (“EOC”). The EOC that agreed to join a jurisdiction of the Eastern Orthodox Church known as the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church (“Antioch”). Eleven years later, most of the leaders of the local church requested to leave Antioch, while some wished to remain. Antioch sought a legal declaration that it owned the local church’s property, despite the fact that the property was titled in a corporation formed before EOC joined Antioch, and despite the fact that the majority of EOC leaders wanted to leave Antioch.

The court of appeal noted that the real question was not whether the property belonged to the general church or to a seceding local church, but rather which of the two competing local groups was entitled to possession and use of the property. The court found that the pertinent authority was Korean United Presbyterian Church v. Presbytery of the Pacific, (“Korean”) (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 480.

In Korean, a primary leader of the local church persuaded a majority of the congregation that the church should leave the denomination. The higher authority responded by appointing new leadership for the local church. The higher authority determined that the minority represented the true church and was entitled to possession of church property. Id. At 494. The Korean court held that which group is the “true church” is “clearly ecclesiastical” and that the ecclesiastical authorities’ determination of the issue is binding and conclusive for the court. Id. at 500-03.

The Metropolitan court found Korean to be on point. It rejected an attempt to distinguish Korean on the ground that the local church never amended its bylaws to reflect its inclusion in Antioch’s faction, and the local church’s constitution was never signed, the EOC submitted to the authority of Antioch’s highest ranking leader (Metropolitan Philip). As a result, Korean could not be distinguished, the right to possession was ecclesiastical, and judgment in favor of Antioch was affirmed. Id. at 932-33.

C. Statement of Facts

1. Defendants’ Evidence

J. Lee has been a long-time member of the Church since 2001. J. Lee Decl., ¶2. In 2018, J. Lee became an Elder and has been an Elder ever since. J. Lee Decl., ¶2

On Sunday, September 19, 2021, Defendants, along with other Church members who are aligned with them, went to the Church to worship. J. Lee Decl., ¶5. Defendants were accosted and yelled at in the foyer of the sanctuary by people representing Plaintiffs. J. Lee Decl., ¶5.

Defendants J. Lee and H. Lee were physically attacked by Cross-Defendant J. Jung, who is a Deacon of the Church put in place by Plaintiff H. Kim. J. Lee Decl., ¶5. Defendants J. Lee and H. Lee ran downstairs to escape the attack, but J. Jung and others (from both factions) followed. J. Lee Dec., ¶5.

A second confrontation and physical attack followed. J. Lee Decl., ¶5. Neither Defendant J. Lee nor H. Lee were looking for a fight and did nothing to instigate the attack. J. Lee Decl., ¶6. J. Jung attacked J. Lee by grabbing his shirt and tie and trying to strangle him. J. Lee Decl., ¶7; Ex. A (picture of J. Lee after the attacks).

Defendants have also obtained videos that were filmed by others present. J. Lee Dec., ¶7. J. Lee viewed the videos, and they are true and accurate depictions of what happened hat morning. J. Lee Decl., ¶7.[5] The attack was surprising, humiliating, and physically and emotionally painful to Defendant J. Lee. J. Lee Decl., ¶8.

2. Plaintiffs’ Evidence

a. Background

The initial friction that led to the excommunication of Defendants J. Lee, D. Lee, H. Lee and S. Kim was on ecclesiastical grounds. H. Kim Decl., ¶5. Those four Defendants acted in sympathy with the followers of apostasy named "Shinsado". H. Kim Decl., ¶5.

In doing so, the Defendants tried to engineer Plaintiff H. Kim’s expulsion from the post of Senior Pastor of the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶5. On May 30, 2021, Defendants illegally formed a committee called the Management Committee without any legal basis in the bylaws and further fostered a confusion and disorder within the church. H. Kim Decl., ¶6.

They then sought to invite Defendant J. Suh as the new interim Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶6. On or about June 15, 2021, Defendant J. Lee served H. Kim with a so-called resolution by the Session to terminate him as Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶7. The resolution is illegal as no Session ever convened on June 11, 2021 as the resolution stated. H. Kim Decl., ¶7. H. Kim is the Chair of the Session and was never asked to convene nor was notified of such a Session meeting. H. Kim Decl., ¶7.

Due to Defendants continued acts of fostering division and discord within the Church, they were excommunicated on June 20, 2021 in accordance with Article 16, section 4 and Article 30 of the bylaws. H. Kim Decl., ¶8. This was confirmed by the Serving Committee, which is formed when the Session lacks a Serving Elder, in accordance with Article 4, section 4 of the bylaws. H. Kim Decl., ¶8. The excommunication was published on the Church\'s Sunday Worship Service Program on August 22, 2021. H. Kim Decl., ¶8.

On August 29, 2021, a temporary congregational meeting was held to confirm my appointment as Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶9. The temporary congregation meeting also approved a resolution to join the The Western Presbytery of U.S.A. (“WKPC”). H. Kim Decl., ¶9.

On September 15, 2021, the Church formally joined as a member to the WKPC. H. Kim Decl., ¶9; Ex. 1.[6] In a letter dated October 5, 2021, the WKPC agreed to the excommunication of the four Defendants. H. Kim Decl., ¶9; Ex. 1.

b. The OSC

Since December 13, 2020, Plaintiff H. Kim began to serve the Church as the Senior Pastor. H. Kim Decl., ¶1. As the Senior Pastor, Plaintiff H. Kim oversaw the daily operation of the church and is familiar with all of the books and records, including financial matters, within the Church. H. Kim Decl., ¶2.

After the hearing on October 15, 2021, Plaintiff H. Kim learned that the court ordered that all Defendants who are members, even those who were excommunicated, must be allowed to attend the Church worship service along with other church members. H. Kim Decl., ¶3.

On October 17, 2021, Defendants, who are members of the Church were allowed to worship together. H. Kim Decl., ¶4. Some Defendants and others aligned with them came. They did not sit through the whole worship service and left peacefully. H. Kim Decl., ¶4. Only Defendant J. Suh, a pastor from another church and not a member, was prevented from entering for the purpose of leading a separate worship service. H. Kim Decl., ¶4.

D. Analysis

Defendants moves for a preliminary injunction restraining Plaintiffs from (1) blocking any worshippers from access to the Church, (2) verbally or physically harassing any worshippers, (3) encouraging any Church member from doing the prohibited actions, and (4) preventing Defendants and their aligned faction to enter and worship in the Church. Plaintiffs oppose.

In accordance with the above-stated legal principles, the court can decide the issues only to the extent that they involve the application of neutral principles of law to the parties’ dispute, and do not infringe onto any ecclesiastic issues. The court does this by analyzing the language of instruments such as deeds, church charters, statutes governing the holding of church property, provisions in a church constitution pertaining to ownership and control of church property, and amendments to articles of incorporation. Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at 603-604.

1. Probability of Success

The parties dispute in this case concerns the ownership and control of the Church. The main issue is the appointment and removal of the director and other board members. This OSC, however, concerns Defendants’ right to worship in the Church.

Defendants show that they have been prohibited from entering the Church and on on September 19, 2021 there was a confrontation in which some Defendants were physically attacked by J. Jung at the direction of Plaintiff H. Kim and prohibited from entering the Church. J. Lee Decl., ¶5. Plaintiffs respond that they now are complying with the court’s TRO by permitting Defendants who are members of the church are able to continue worshipping, even if they have been excommunicated. H. Kim Decl., ¶¶ 3-4. They have excepted Defendant J. Suh from this because he is not a member of the Church. Opp. at 4. “Only defendant John Suh who is a pastor from another church and not a member is prevented from entering for the purpose of leading a separate worship service.” H. Kim Decl., ¶4.

In reply, Defendants correctly point out that the tension between the two parties remains high. Reply at 2. Moreover, it is unclear from the above quote whether Plaintiffs are precluding Defendant John Suh from entering and worshipping – which the TRO prevents – or whether they are preventing John Suh from leading a worship service in the Church – which the TRO permits. It is clear that a court order must remain in place to ensure that Plaintiffs comply.

2. Balance of Hardships

In determining whether to issue a preliminary injunction, the second factor which a trial court examines is the interim harm that plaintiff is likely to sustain if the injunction is denied as compared to the harm that the defendant is likely to suffer if the court grants a preliminary injunction. Donahue Schriber Realty Group, Inc. v. Nu Creation Outreach, (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 1171, 1177. This factor involves consideration of the inadequacy of other remedies, the degree of irreparable harm, and the necessity of preserving the status quo. Id.

Defendants assert that a preliminary injunction is required to maintain the status quo until the December . If Plaintiff continues to block access, deny entry, physically harass worshippers, prohibit worship, then Defendants would be harmed. Defendants argue that no injury comes to Plaintiffs in simply allowing Defendants to attend the worship. Mot. at 7.

Plaintiffs do not argue any harm will come to them through this injunction. The balance of harm weighs in favor of Defendants.

E. Conclusion

The application is granted. A preliminary injunction shall issue which restrains Plaintiffs from (1) blocking any worshippers from access to the Church, (2) verbally or physically harassing any worshippers, (3) encouraging any Church member from doing the prohibited actions, and (4) preventing Defendants and their aligned faction to enter and worship in the Church. Plaintiffs may not prevent anyone aligned with Defendants from entering and worshipping with them at their services, but may prevent separate services on Church premises.

The court must require a bond, and Defendants shall post a $500 bond within three court days, providing evidence of the same to Plaintiffs’ counsel.


[1] Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the ex parte application on October 8, 2021, and an opposition to the OSC on October 21, 2021. The latter is the operative opposition.

[2] Plaintiffs in this case are the Church, J. Lee, S. Kim, D. Lee, and H. Lee. The only Defendant from *******1304 who is not a Plaintiff in this case is John S. Suh. To prevent confusion, Plaintiffs in this case will be collectively referred to as “Cross-Complainants.” Defendants in this case are Howard Kim aka Sung Ji Kim (“H. Kim”), Jae Min Chung (“J. Chung”), Seok Hee Ha (“S. Ha”), Seung Jin Lee (“S. Lee”) and Seung Hye Kim (“SH. Kim”). They will be collectively called “Cross-Defendants.”

Church is a Plaintiff in both cases. As the cases concern an issue of control, the Church should be a nominal Defendant in both cases, not a Plaintiff.

[3] The courts look to the substance of an injunction to determine whether it is prohibitory or mandatory. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. v. Superior Court, (1983) 149 Cal.App.3d 709, 713. A mandatory injunction — one that mandates a party to affirmatively act, carries a heavy burden: “[t]he granting of a mandatory injunction pending trial is not permitted except in extreme cases where the right thereto is clearly established.” Teachers Ins. & Annuity Assoc. v. Furlotti, (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 187, 1493.

[4] However, a court may issue an injunction to maintain the status quo without a cause of action in the complaint. CCP ;526(a)(3).

[5] Defendants’ flash drive is not marked as an exhibit.

[6] The letter received from WKPC is in Korean. Plaintiffs’ counsel Andrew Kim translated a portion of the letter as the exhibit.

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