Thursday, June 29, 2017

Michigan Supreme Court Holds Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Is Not Jurisdictional

In Winkler v. Marist Fathers of Detroit, Inc., (MI Sup. Ct., June 27, 2017), the Michigan Supreme Court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine:
requires a case-specific inquiry that informs how a court must adjudicate certain claims within its subject matter jurisdiction; it does not determine whether the court has such jurisdiction in the first place.
The court explained:
What matters ...  is whether the actual adjudication of a particular legal claim would require the resolution of ecclesiastical questions....
With that understanding, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for it to decide whether Michigan's Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act applies to religious schools.  At issue in the case is a Catholic high school's denial of admission to a student who contends that the denial was because of her learning disability.