Tuesday, March 15, 2016

9th Circuit Hears Oral Arguments In Dispute Over Control of Sikh Dharma Company

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday heard oral arguments in Puri v. Khalsa (Docket No. 13-36024) (video of full oral arguments).  Courthouse News Service has extensive background on the case in which Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri, the widow of the leader of the Sikh Dharma faith, is seeking a seat on the board of the company that makes Yogi Tea and which also controls various parts of the Sikh Dharma religious movement. Here is an excerpt from CNS's excellent report:
Bibiji sued in Multnomah County [Oregon] Circuit Court, claiming that her husband had wanted her to be a board member and accusing the board of Unto Infinity of inflating their salaries and executing a self-serving sale of the company's cereal division that cheated Sikh Dharma....
The parties agreed to settle in arbitration. But Bibiji moved the case to Federal Court, claiming the settlement was never ratified and was unfair.... There, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mossman dismissed the case, finding that Bibiji lacked standing to sue ... because she is not a board member. He also found that the First Amendment prohibited him from installing the leaders of a religious organization.
On Thursday, Bibiji's lawyer ... urged a panel of the Ninth Circuit to apply "neutral principles of law" rather than a First Amendment exception.
(See prior related posting.)