28 A.3d 1171 (Md. 2011), 66-2009, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater

Docket Nº66-2009.
Citation28 A.3d 1171, 421 Md. 664
Opinion JudgeMURPHY, J.
Party NamePRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al. v. Mary LINKLATER.
AttorneyJohn L. Cooley (John Mark Cooley of Wooton Hart PLC, Roanoke, Virginia; Stephen C. Thienel of Thienel Law Firm, LLC, Columbia, MD; Mitchell Y. Mirviss of Venable LLP, Baltimore, MD; Peter G. Byrnes, Jr. of Bennett & Albright, P.A., Baltimore, MD; and Mindy G. Farber of Farber Legal, LLC, Bethesda...
Judge PanelArgued before BELL, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, MURPHY, ADKINS and BARBERA, JJ. BELL, C.J., BATTAGLIA and ADKINS, JJ., concur and dissent. ADKINS, J., concurring and dissenting, in which BELL, C.J., and BATTAGLIA, J., join. Chief Judge BELL and Judge BATTAGLIA authorize me to state that the...
Case DateSeptember 21, 2011
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Page 1171

28 A.3d 1171 (Md. 2011)

421 Md. 664

PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al.

v.

Mary LINKLATER.

No. 66-2009.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

September 21, 2011

Page 1172

[421 Md. 666] John L. Cooley (John Mark Cooley of Wooton Hart PLC, Roanoke, Virginia; Stephen C. Thienel of Thienel Law Firm, LLC, Columbia, MD; Mitchell Y. Mirviss of Venable LLP, Baltimore, MD; Peter G. Byrnes, Jr. of Bennett & Albright, P.A., Baltimore, MD; and Mindy G. Farber of Farber Legal, LLC, Bethesda, MD), all on brief, for petitioner/cross-respondents.

Thomas S. Martin (Amanda Kosonen and Keith R. Palfin of Shearman & Sterling LLP, Washington, D.C.), on brief, for respondent/cross-petitioner.

Warren Kaplan (Susan Huhta and Emily Read of Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Washington, D.C.), on brief, for respondent/cross-petitioner.

Alan R. Kabat, Esq., Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC, Leslie D. Alderman III, Esq., Alderman, Devorsetz & Hora, PLLC, Washington, D.C., Kathleen Cahill, Esq., Law Offices of Kathleen Cahill, LLC, Towson, MD, for Amicus Curiae brief of Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association and Maryland Employment Lawyers Association.

Monisha Cherayil, Esq., Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow, Baltimore, MD, for Amicus Curiae brief of Public Justice Center.

Deborah Liu, Esq., People for the American Way Foundation, Washington

Page 1173

DC, Marci A. Hamilton, Esq., Washington Crossing, PA, for Amicus Curiae brief of People for the American Way Foundation.

Argued before BELL, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, MURPHY, ADKINS and BARBERA, JJ.

MURPHY, J.

[421 Md. 667] In the case at bar, this Court granted both a petition and cross-petition for a writ of certiorari to address two issues of public importance: (1) the extent to which the First Amendment's " ministerial exception" is applicable to a sixteen count civil action asserted against a church by a former employee who claims that she was the victim of sexual harassment and employment discrimination; and (2) whether the former employee's " hostile work environment" claim was timely filed under the " continuing violation doctrine" exception to the applicable statute of limitations. [421 Md. 668]409 Md. 47, 972 A.2d 861 (2009). Before addressing these issues, however, it is necessary that we clear away a good deal of flotsam and jetsam produced by the two hundred seventy-five paragraph,1 fifty-one page Complaint in which the former employee asserted her sixteen claims.

At this point in these needlessly complicated proceedings, there are four Petitioners/Cross Respondents (" Petitioners" ): (1) Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (" the Church" ), (2) Rufus S. Lusk, III (" Lusk" ), (3) the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (" the Synod" ), and (4) Bishop Theodore Schneider (" Schneider" ). Having ultimately prevailed in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, they argue that the Court of Special Appeals has erroneously concluded that Respondent/Cross Petitioner, Mary Linklater (Respondent) is entitled to a new trial on four of the claims asserted in her Complaint.2 Respondent, who [421 Md. 669] was awarded compensatory and punitive damages by a jury, argues that the Court of Special Appeals has erroneously concluded that she is not entitled to the

Page 1174

entry of a judgment that conforms to that verdict.3 For the reasons that follow, we hold that (1) the ministerial exception does not apply to two of the claims that Respondent has asserted, and (2) the " continuing violation doctrine" is applicable to those claims.

Background

As the issues before us involve questions of law rather than questions of fact, there is no need to set forth each and every item of conflicting evidence in the record of this " she said, [421 Md. 670] they said" case.4 Suffice it to say that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Respondent (1) was the victim of sexual harassment, (2) complained about the harassment, and (3) was the victim of additional harassment and retaliation as a result of her complaints.

On October 16, 2002, Respondent filed a Complaint against the Petitioners in which she asserted the following causes of action:

COUNT I

Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Against all Defendants

* * *

COUNT II

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Against all Defendants

* * *

Page 1175

COUNT III

[421 Md. 671]Gender Discrimination Against all Defendants

* * *

Count IV

Retaliatory Harassment and Constructive Discharge Against All Defendants

* * *

Count V

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Against All Defendants

* * *

Count VI

Invasion of Privacy and False Light Against all Defendants

* * *

Count VII

Fraud Against All Defendants

* * *

Count VIII

Injurious Falsehood Against Defendants Lusk, Schneider and D.C. Metropolitan Synod

* * *

[421 Md. 672] Count IX

Tortious Interference With Business Relations Against Defendants Lusk, Schneider, and D.C. Metropolitan Synod

* * *

Count X

Negligent Retention and Supervision Against Defendants Prince of Peace and D.C. Metropolitan Synod

* * *

Count XI

Respondeat Superior Against All Defendants Prince of Peace and D.C. Metropolitan Synod.

* * *

Count XII

Conspiracy Against All Defendants

* * *

Count XIII

Aiding and Abetting Against All Defendants

* * *

Count XIV

[421 Md. 673] Breach of Contract Against Defendants Schneider and the D.C. Metropolitan Synod

* * *

Count XV

Breach of Implied Contract Against Defendant Prince of Peace

* * *

Page 1176

Count [XVI]

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Against Defendant Schneider

Respondent's Complaint included the following assertions:

160. On March 4, 2001, [Respondent] found a defaced picture of herself that had been horribly stabbed numerous times, stuck to a bulletin board on the wall of the church next to the music room where [Respondent] worked. [Respondent] was extremely distraught by this hateful act, and immediately fled the church.

161. Over the course of the next three days, [Respondent] suffered from disabling emotional and psychological distress.... [Respondent] continuously agonized over her circumstances, and the defaced photo, which symbolized a great hatred of her that was felt by others— others who had previously been her friends and supporters....

162. By March 7, 2001, [Respondent] concluded that the environment at Prince of Peace had become so hostile and hateful and intimidating that, emotionally and psychologically, she simply could no longer bring herself to come in to work, unless there was a dramatic and fundamental improvement in the work environment....

[421 Md. 674] Respondent's Complaint included the following Prayer for Relief:

WHEREFORE, [Respondent] respectfully requests that this Court enter judgment:

A. declaring that the acts complained of herein are in violation of the laws of the State of Maryland and Montgomery County Code § 27-19;

B. directing Defendants to make [Respondent] whole for all earnings and other job benefits she would have received but for Defendants' unlawful conduct, including but not limited to, wages, retirement benefits, bonuses, and other lost benefits, plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest;

C. directing Defendants to pay [Respondent] compensatory damages, including damages for her mental anguish and psychological treatment in an amount appropriate to the proof at trial;

D. awarding [Respondent] punitive damages in an amount appropriate to the proof at trial;

E. awarding [Respondent] the costs of this action, including reasonable attorneys' fees; and

F. granting such other and further relief as this Court Deems necessary and proper.

The first Circuit Court ruling of consequence occurred on March 10, 2003, when the pretrial motions hearing court resolved Petitioners' motions to dismiss in an on-the-record proceeding during which it stated:

In deciding the motion to dismiss as to the first amendment issues that have been raised, I decided that what I needed to do was look at the allegations in each count of the complaint and determine on a claim-by-claim basis whether or not the issues raised constituted— and I'm quoting from which case is this, McKelvey v. Pierce [, 173 N.J. 26, 800 A.2d 840 (2002),] which, although none of these cases are technically binding, I felt that this language was instructive as to the analysis the Court needed to conduct. And that was requiring an assessment of every issue raised in terms of doctrinal and administrative intrusion and entanglement. [421 Md. 675] I thought that was a pretty good description for the process we were required to go through.

Page 1177

The Court is going to grant the motion to dismiss as to Counts 4, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and denying the motion to dismiss as to the remaining counts. I did also consider separately the statute of limitations arguments that have been raised with respect to the remaining counts and do not find that they are barred by the statute of limitations, at least for motions to dismiss purposes. So the counts remaining are 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11.

The second Circuit Court ruling of consequence occurred on January 19, 2005, when the trial court filed a Memorandum Opinion and Order that included the following findings and conclusions:

The issues presented [by the Petitioners in their Motions for Summary Judgment] were: (1) Whether the ecclesiastical exception bars Ms. Linklater's causes of actions against all of the Defendants; (2) Whether the Statute of Limitations has already run for Ms. Linklater's Montgomery County Code causes of...

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6 practice notes
  • 566 U.S. 937 (2012), 11-793, Linklater v. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 2012
    ...LINKLATER, petitioner, v. PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al. No. 11-793. United States Supreme Court April 16, 2012 Case below, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan. Petition for writ of certiorari to the C......
  • 566 U.S. 937 (2012), 11-923, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 2012
    ...LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al., petitioners, v. Mary LINKLATER, et al. No. 11-923. United States Supreme Court April 16, 2012 Case below, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan. Petition for writ of certiorari to the Cou......
  • Sorto v. Autozone, Inc., 072120 FED4, 19-1278
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • July 21, 2020
    ...to consider the Newport News conduct under the continuing violation doctrine, see Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater, 28 A.3d 1171, 1188 (Md. 2011), on the basis that he was subjected to verbal insults after transferring to the Laurel AutoZone, Sorto has not pl......
  • 884 F.Supp.2d 668 (N.D.Ill. 2012), 11 C 5480, Herzog v. St. Peter Lutheran Church
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • August 1, 2012
    ...continue in its ministry to the children of the church." [4] Herzog also cites to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d 1171 (2011), in which the Court of Appeals of Maryland declined to apply the ministerial exception because there was no contention that t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • 566 U.S. 937 (2012), 11-793, Linklater v. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 2012
    ...LINKLATER, petitioner, v. PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al. No. 11-793. United States Supreme Court April 16, 2012 Case below, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan. Petition for writ of certiorari to the C......
  • 566 U.S. 937 (2012), 11-923, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 2012
    ...LUTHERAN CHURCH, et al., petitioners, v. Mary LINKLATER, et al. No. 11-923. United States Supreme Court April 16, 2012 Case below, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan. Petition for writ of certiorari to the Cou......
  • Sorto v. Autozone, Inc., 072120 FED4, 19-1278
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • July 21, 2020
    ...to consider the Newport News conduct under the continuing violation doctrine, see Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater, 28 A.3d 1171, 1188 (Md. 2011), on the basis that he was subjected to verbal insults after transferring to the Laurel AutoZone, Sorto has not pl......
  • 884 F.Supp.2d 668 (N.D.Ill. 2012), 11 C 5480, Herzog v. St. Peter Lutheran Church
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • August 1, 2012
    ...continue in its ministry to the children of the church." [4] Herzog also cites to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church v. Linklater, 421 Md. 664, 28 A.3d 1171 (2011), in which the Court of Appeals of Maryland declined to apply the ministerial exception because there was no contention that t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results