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Serbian Diocese v. Milivojevich





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County, the Hon. Thomas R. Doran, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied March 30, 1979.

This appeal is the sequel to an earlier appeal in this case reported at 60 Ill.2d 477 (1975), rev'd, 426 U.S. 696, 49 L.Ed.2d 151, 96 S.Ct. 2372 (1976). The plaintiffs are the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the United States of America and Canada, the religious body of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in this country ("American-Canadian Diocese"), and Bishops Firmilian Ocokoljich, ("Firmilian"), Gregory Udicki and Sava Vukovich. The defendants, who are the appellants here, are former Bishop Dionisije Milivojevich ("Dionisije"), the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the United States of America and Canada, a corporation organized in 1937 under the provisions of the Illinois act relating to religious corporations (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1937, ch. 32, pars. 164 to 188), referred to in this opinion as the "religious corporation," and the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Monastery of the St. Sava, a corporation organized in 1945 under the provisions of the Illinois General Not for Profit Corporation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1945, ch. 32, pars. 163a to 163a100), referred to as the "monastery corporation."

This litigation had its origin on May 10, 1963, when the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church suspended Dionisije, the then bishop of the American-Canadian Diocese. On July 23 the Holy Assembly of the Serbian church removed Dionisije from office, and on March 5, 1974, the Assembly unfrocked him. At the time when Bishop Dionisije was suspended from office the Holy Synod appointed Firmilian as administrator of the Diocese. At the same time, the Holy Assembly dissolved the American-Canadian Diocese and replaced it with three new dioceses. With Dionisije's suspension Firmilian was also made administrator of one of the new dioceses, and when Dionisije was removed, Firmilian became its bishop. Administrators, and later bishops, were also named for the other two new dioceses.

On July 26, 1963, a complaint was filed in the circuit court of Lake County against Firmilian in the names of the religious corporation and the monastery corporation seeking to enjoin interference with the affairs and the assets of these corporations. Thereafter, on October 14, 1963, Firmilian and the other plaintiffs brought suit against Dionisije seeking to enjoin him from assuming or retaining control of the property belonging to the religious corporation or to the monastery corporation, and to direct him to turn over to the plaintiffs all assets of the two corporations. Each case involved the same issues regarding the control of the Diocese and its property, and they were consolidated. As noted previously, Firmilian and his adherents are denominated here as the plaintiffs, and Dionisije and his supporters are referred to as the defendants.

After a bench trial the circuit court held that the suspension, removal, and unfrocking of Bishop Dionisije were valid, but that the reorganization of the Diocese was not. On direct appeal this court affirmed the latter part of the judgment, but reversed as to Dionisije's removal and defrockment, which we held improper because done in violation of the prescribed procedures of the Serbian Church (60 Ill.2d 477, 501-03). As to Dionisije's suspension we held that it was no longer effective since he had not been tried within a year of his ecclesiastical indictment as required by church law.

The Supreme Court of the United States in turn reversed with regard to the suspension and the removal of Dionisije because our decision was considered as undertaking to resolve "religious controversies whose resolution the First Amendment commits exclusively to the highest ecclesiastical tribunals of this hierarchical church" (426 U.S. 696, 720, 49 L.Ed.2d 151, 169, 96 S.Ct. 2372, 2385). Following the remand of the cause to us for further proceedings, we reversed the judgment, in part. (66 Ill.2d 469 (1977).) Thereafter, on February 22, 1978, the circuit court entered a final judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, and the defendants filed a notice of appeal. A direct appeal to this court was allowed pursuant to Rule 302(b) (58 Ill.2d R. 302(b)). At the same time we stayed the force of the judgment and suspended its enforcement.

Our mandate to the circuit court stated that the judgment of that court should be affirmed insofar as it held that Bishop Dionisije had been properly removed as bishop of the American-Canadian Diocese, but that that part of the judgment which held the reorganization of the American-Canadian Diocese to have been invalid should be reversed. We are satisfied that the judgment entered by the circuit court on remand conformed to the mandate of this court and to that of the United States Supreme Court with respect to the suspension and removal of Dionisije and the reorganization of the Diocese. That being so, it is not open to the defendants as appellants to raise questions which were or could have been raised on the former appeal. People v. National Builders Bank (1957), 12 Ill.2d 473, 474, 476; People ex rel. Maeras v. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R.R. Co. (1967), 36 Ill.2d 585, 586, cert. denied (1967), 389 U.S. 427, 19 L.Ed.2d 655, 88 S.Ct. 578.

The defendants complain that the circuit court went beyond the terms of the mandate, however, and exceeded its jurisdiction, in that it required two foreign corporations affiliated with the Diocese to turn over their assets to the plaintiffs even though these corporations were not served with process, were not named as parties, and did not appear in the suit. One of these corporations is the St. Sava Church and Educational Mission of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the United States and Canada, a not-for-profit corporation organized by Dionisije under the laws of California in May 1962 while he was still bishop of the Diocese. The corporation holds legal title to about 170 acres of land near Jackson, California, acquired from the Illinois religious corporation in December 1962.

The other corporation is the St. Sava Home, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit corporation organized by Dionisije in 1966, after the present litigation had begun. In 1969 Dionisije caused to be transferred to the St. Sava Home title to 18 acres out of a tract of 1,200 acres near Shadeland, Pennsylvania, which the Illinois religious corporation had acquired in 1951. A tract of some 230 acres in Libertyville, Illinois, originally owned by the Illinois religious corporation, was transferred by it to the Illinois monastery corporation in 1945. Since the monastery corporation is a party to this suit, however, the defendants raise no question as to the court's jurisdiction to enter judgment against it.

The ordering portion of the judgment does not in terms direct either the California or the Pennsylvania corporation to turn over assets to the plaintiffs. The defendants argue, however, that these corporations fall within the following language appearing in paragraph 6 of the judgment:

"Defendants and each of them, and all persons, firms, corporations and entities who have acted or who are acting under, with, or pursuant to their order or direction or in concert with them, * * * are further ordered to relinquish and turn over control and management of all diocesan property and assets now in their control and under their management to the plaintiff, Firmilian, or his lawfully designated nominees or successors."

The defendants' argument rests on the presence in the judgment of findings, to which the defendants also object, that the property transferred to the foreign corporations by the Illinois religious corporation was impressed with a trust imposed in favor of members of the Diocese and that, following the suspension of Dionisije, Firmilian, as administrator of the Diocese and as chief executive officer of the Illinois and the foreign corporations, became responsible for the administration of that trust. The plaintiffs' second amended and supplemental complaint does not seek relief against the foreign ...

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