Thursday, March 18, 2021

Church's Appeal of Bank's Interpleader Is Dismissed

United Community Bank v. Wakefield Missionary Baptist Church,  (NC App., March 16, 2021), involves a dispute over who is entitled to bank accounts of Wakefield Missionary Baptist Church on deposit at United Community Bank. The Bank filed an interpleader action. The church trustees sought dismissal on the ground that the dispute was an ecclesiastical matter requiring determination of who is a church member, and their roles and authority. As recounted by the appeals court:

The trial court granted the Bank’s motion for interpleader and discharge, ordering the Bank to relinquish all of the disputed funds to the Clerk of Superior Court to be held until further orders. The Bank complied.

The court dismissed the appeal as interlocutory, saying in part:

The interlocutory order granting interpleader does not impair the Trustee Defendants’ ... rights because the issue of who has control over the Church’s assets with the Bank is the very thing yet to be decided at the trial court.... The proceeding does not interfere with the Trustee Defendants’ substantial right to be free from ecclesiastical entanglement because the trial court can resolve the controversy based on neutral principles of law.