The judge certainly didn't mince words at this morning's crowded Superior Court hearing in downtown Los Angeles. Judge James Chalfant told the seven attorneys assembled in his courtroom that ''There is no doubt in my mind the sale to defendant Hollister was improper and invalid''. What he was referring to is the widely-publicized sale of a spectacular former convent atop a Los Feliz hillside to a L.A. businesswoman named Dana Hollister. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles took the elderly sisters who owned the estate to court, saying they didn't have the authority to sell it, nor did they have the authority to terminate a lease for a prayer center used by priests without the Archdiocese approval. The judge agreed.
What makes this all the more fascinating, and has so many people talking about it, is the identity of a buyer the Archdiocese prefers to sell to. You may have heard of her, a singer named Katy Perry. There are a lot of reasons that have been thrown out there as to why the sisters didn't want Perry to buy (she doesn't represent their standards), but that's never really been confirmed. The Archdiocese says the Perry deal is better for them and for the future of the order in that it's a $14.5 million cash deal. Hollister's purchase price was $15.5 million, but she only put $100,000 down, more than half went for taxes and fees, and she has a vaguely-defined plan to finance the rest of the deal a few years down the road.
Nothing was really settled today, although the judge did tell both sides to stop doing what they're doing, the property can't be sold to anyone for now, and he wanted everyone back in court in September with some specific numbers on what the property is worth and what a monthly rental number might be so there is income coming in for the sisters while the potentially long lawsuit plays out. For now, Hollister's people says she'll pay $25,000 a month in what has loosely been described as ''rent" (she's apparently not living there at this time). Hollister, when I asked her for reaction after court simply said ''we live to fight another day''. The lawyers for the Archdiocese, the same ones that steered the Church thru decades of abuse litigation and are intimately familiar with long court battles, simply said ''It's simple. We win, she loses''. Sounds simple, but it isn't.