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Friday, December 4, 2009

Legal Standing and Preservation in Pennsylvania

Today's Preservation Online includes an article that illustrates the importance of legal standing to historic preservation advocacy:

A last-ditch effort to save America's first Lithuanian Catholic church, located in Shenandoah, Pa., failed this week. Schuylkill County Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin ruled Dec. 1 that parishioners of St. George Catholic Church have "no standing," or no legal right, to file a lawsuit to halt the current demolition of the historic 1891 sanctuary.

There are familiar elements in the story: an unbending Catholic diocese, an inflated estimate of repair costs and wide support inside and outside of the Church for preservation. The plaintiffs are contemplating appeal, but demolition now has a green light to proceed no matter what the outcome of the appeal.

Of course, unlike the local effort of the Friends of the San Luis, the Shenandoah effort hinges on the basis that parishioners have standing to sue their own Diocese. What is clear is that having legally-defensible standing to bring forth lawsuits to halt demolition is crucial to preservation efforts. When the eleventh hour comes -- and it often does -- the courts provide recourse.


Anonymous said...

Is "standing" defined simply as having a financial interest?

Are the judges saying: no financial interest = no standing?

Obviously the property owner has a financial interest.

Who else does?

Anonymous said...

here's a definition of legal standing:


The bottom line is that you have to be subject to some sort of injury in order to make a legal claim.

Panic Attack said...

The article states:

The Diocese of Allentown collected money for restoration but never restored St. George. Demolition began in October.

"The people thought their money was going toward the building, not the bishop," says Erin Hammerstedt, field representative at Preservation Pennsylvania. "There was never a dialogue between the diocese and the people involved in preservation."

Perhaps the donation of this couple was not "significant" enough to satisfy this judge's definition of "injury". I'd say anyone who donated money for the preservation of that church at least has a legal standing to get their money back. Maybe their standing is more significant if more than 2 of them are part of the suit?

Seems like this diocese is biting the hands that feed them. I would find it difficult to forgive those actions and continue faithful support.