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Doe 318 v. Conventual Franciscans

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 28, 2016

Doe 318, Plaintiff,
v.
The Conventual Franciscans, a/k/a Conventual Franciscan Friars, Province of Our Lady of Consolation, a/k/a Conventual Franciscan Fathers Prov. of Our Lady of Consolation, The Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Incorporated, a/k/a The Conventual Franciscan Fathers Mt. St. Francis Ind., Defendant.

          Jeffrey R. Anderson, Esq., Michael G. Finnegan, Esq., Elin M. Lindstrom, Esq., and Trusha Patel Goffe, Esq., Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A., counsel for Plaintiff Doe 318.

          Lawrence M. Rocheford, Esq., and Patrick S. Collins, Esq., Jardine, Logan & Obrien, P.L.L.P., and Donald J. Kelly, Esq., Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP, counsel for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Donovan W. Frank United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter came before the Court on August 12, 2016, pursuant to a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Transfer, filed by Defendant. (Doc. No. 9.) In addition, per the direction from the Court after submissions of letters, Plaintiff brought a request for limited jurisdictional discovery by Plaintiff. (See Doc. Nos. 16-18.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion and grants in part Plaintiff's request for limited jurisdictional discovery.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initially filed his Complaint in Minnesota District Court in Scott County, Minnesota. (Doc. No. 4-1.) Plaintiff alleged three counts against Defendant, the Province of Our Lady of Consolation (“Province”): negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent retention. (Id., at 10-12.) All of these counts arise out of the alleged abuse of Plaintiff by Father Brennan Harris, a priest “employed” by the Province. (Id. ¶¶ 3-7.)

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the Province “was and continues to be a Roman Catholic religious order of priests and brothers affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church with its headquarters located at 101 St. Anthony Drive, Mount Saint Francis, [Indiana].” (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that the Province is “an organization or entity which includes, but is not limited to, civil corporations, decision-making entities, officials, and employees, authorized to conduct business and conducting business in the State of Minnesota with its principal place of business located at 16385 Saint Francis Lane, Prior Lake, [Minnesota].” (Id.)

         The Province subsequently removed the case to federal court (Doc. No. 4), and filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Wisconsin. (Doc. No. 9.) Filed in support of its motion was the Affidavit of Brother Nicholas Wolfla, the Provincial Secretary of the Province setting forth the Province's structure and contacts with Minnesota. (Doc. No. 13.) The Province is part of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, also known as the Conventual Franciscan Order, which is an international religious order of friars within the Roman Catholic Church. (Id. ¶ 2.) The Province itself is a Kentucky non-profit corporation that has its provincial office at Mount St. Francis, Indiana. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Father Harris engaged in unpermitted sexual conduct with Plaintiff from “approximately 1973 to 1974[.]” (Doc. No. 4-1, ¶ 7.) At that time, Brother Wolfla states that Father Harris lived in Wisconsin and served with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. (Doc. No. 13, ¶ 3.) While the Province admits that it has members spread across nine states and two foreign countries (id.), the Province contends that it has little contact with Minnesota. The Province claims that it does not maintain any offices in Minnesota (id. ¶ 4), does not maintain any bank accounts in Minnesota (id. ¶ 5), does not maintain any employees or agents in Minnesota, including any registered agent for service of process (id. ¶ 6), and does not conduct or transact business in Minnesota, nor is it licensed to do so (id. ¶ 7). The Province further contends that no Minnesota resident owns any stock in the Province. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         The Province does, however, have some presence in Minnesota. The Province owns a property in Prior Lake, Minnesota, which it claims it “leases to a separate and distinct non-profit corporation called the Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center (“Retreat Center”).” (Id. ¶ 9.) The Province contends that the Retreat Center runs the Prior Lake property as a “spiritual retreat facility.” (Id.) Other than the Prior Lake property, the Province contends that it owns no other real property in Minnesota. (Id.)

         In addition to the Prior Lake property, the Province contends that it has six active members of the Province who reside in Minnesota. (Id. ¶ 10.) Four of those members hold staff positions at the Prior Lake property. (Id. ¶ 11.) However, the Province contends that it does not employ any of the Retreat Center's staff, including the four Province members holding staff positions at the Prior Lake property. (Id.) Two members of the Province hold staff positions at St. Bonaventure's Parish in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Id. ¶12.) Finally, three members of the Province are residents in nursing care facilities in Minnesota. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         In opposition to the Province's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff filed an affidavit from Jennifer Haselberger, a cannon lawyer and consultant that provides canonical advice to Catholic individuals, groups, and institutions, as well as other entities engaged in legal processes involving the Catholic Church. (Doc. No. 21.) Ms. Haselberger states that she received her licentiate (J.C.L.) in canon law from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, in 2004 and additionally holds a Ph.D. from the University of London. (Id. ¶ 2.) Ms. Haselberger further states that she practiced as a canon lawyer in Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, and internationally, spending 10 years working on behalf of various dioceses and bishops, including serving as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, as the Bishop's Delegate for Canonical Affairs in the Diocese of Fargo, and as Chancellor and Director of the Marriage Tribunal and Safe Environment Program for the Diocese of Crookston. (Id. ¶ 3.) Ms. Haselberger further states that her job duties required her to be involved in the evaluation and formation of priests and deacons at the major and minor seminary levels; that she was involved in the establishment of several civil corporations for Catholic enterprises, including the establishment of Catholic schools and foundations; that she was involved in the drafting of Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for these entities; and that she was responsible for determining or verifying which corporations qualified for tax exempt status. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) In addition, Ms. Haselberger states that she was a liaison for the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to the various religious congregations serving in the Archdiocese, including the Province. (Id. ¶ 6.)

         Based on her experiences and knowledge, Ms. Haselberger sets forth a variety of facts about the Province and its connection to Minnesota. Ms. Haselberger states that the Province has 85 total friars and agrees with the Province that nine friars from the Province are located in Minnesota. (Id. ¶ 11.) According to Ms. Haselberger, the Province is comprised of sixteen “friaries” and two of them are located in Minnesota, one in Bloomington and one in Prior Lake. (Id. ¶ 12.) In 1951, the Province filed an application for a certificate of authority to transact business in Minnesota. (Id. ¶ 13.) This filing coincided with the establishment of the Assumption Seminary in Chaska, Minnesota. (Id.) According to Ms. Haselberger, the Province remains in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State. (Id.)

         In addition to the Retreat Center, Ms. Haselberger states that the 2015 Official Catholic Directory (“Directory”)-a compilation of the address of the educational, charitable, and religious institutions operated by the Roman Catholic Church within each diocese-lists two additional organizations affiliated with the Conventual Franciscans: St. Bonaventure Friary and St. Joseph Cupertino Friary. (Id. ¶ 16.) Further, the Directory indicates that friars from the Province staffed two parishes in Minnesota: Assumption in Richfield and St. Bonaventure in Bloomington. (Id.) In 2014, a third parish was also listed as having a friar on staff. (Id.)

         In 1973, when Plaintiff was allegedly abused, the Directory listed three organizations affiliated with the Conventual Franciscans: St. Bonaventure Friary, Assumption Seminary, and Franciscan Retreats. (Id. ¶ 17.) Ms. Haselberger states that from 1951 to 1970, Assumption Seminary was “one of the primary headquarters of the Conventual Franciscans and the Province of Our Lady of Consolation.” (Id. ¶ 18.) At the Assumption Seminary, friars from the Province taught and made decisions regarding advancing novices and candidates to Holy Orders and full profession within the Province and the Conventual Franciscans. (Id.) In addition, novices of the Province were sent to Assumption Seminary for their religious formation and to profess their religious vows. (Id.) Assumption Seminary was further the site of many administrative gatherings of the leadership of the Province and the Conventual Franciscans. (Id.) According to Ms. Haselberger, every friar active in the Province from 1951 until 1970 would have been required to have contact with Assumption Seminary and would have spent time at the facility. (I ...


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