Thursday, January 15, 2015

8th Circuit Dismisses Factional Dispute Over Control of Hutterite Colony

In Hutterville Hutterian Brethren, Inc. v. Sveen, (8th Cir., Jan. 13, 2015), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit growing out of the long dispute between two factions over control of a South Dakota Hutterite colony. State courts refused to resolve the issue of control, finding that to do so would require civil courts to decide issue of religious doctrine.  A federal court action was then filed on behalf of the colony (a non-profit corporation) by the Waldner faction. The suit was brought against the attorneys representing the colony charging, among other things, breach of fiduciary and ethical duties in creating a sham legal dispute that allowed them to side with the competing Wipf faction. The 8th Circuit held that since the Waldners in the state court proceedings convinced the courts that they should not decide the case because it involved issues of religious doctrine, they are now estopped from claiming that the religious questions involved are a sham.