United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
in this interpleader action is a Petition for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs filed by Plaintiff Citibank, N.A. ECF No. 29.
The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant
to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the
following reasons, Citibank's petition is granted in
Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (“the Church”),
located in Landover, Prince George's County, Maryland,
was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1962 by
Reverend James R. Peebles, Sr.; his wife, Betty Peebles; and
Alice Harvey. The parties refer to this corporate entity as
“Jericho DC” to distinguish it from a
latter-formed entity incorporated in Maryland, also under the
name “Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc.”
(“Jericho MD”). Since its founding, the Church
has been operated and controlled by a Board of Trustees.
1996, Jericho DC registered with the Maryland State
Department of Assessment and Taxation (“SDAT”) to
operate in Maryland. See Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 2.
That same year, it received a letter from the IRS confirming
its status as a validly constituted non-profit corporation
and was provided with an Employer Identification Number
(“EIN”). Id. When James Peebles, Sr.
died in 1996, Betty Peebles become the acknowledged leader of
March 15, 2009, the Jericho DC Board members were summoned to
Betty Peebles' office to sign “Resolution 1-09 of
Board of Trustees” (“Resolution 1-09”).
Resolution 1-09 established a new slate of Board members. The
new Board consisted of former trustees Betty Peebles and
Dorothy Williams, as well as new trustees Gloria
McClam-Magruder, Denise Killen, Clarence Jackson, Jennie
Jackson, Bruce Landsdowne, Norma Lewis, and Lashonda Terrell.
By implication, Resolution 1-09 removed William Meadows, Anne
Wesley, and Joel Peebles from the Board of Trustees.
October 12, 2010, Betty Peebles passed away. On November 1,
2010, six individuals, including four of the new purported
Board members identified in Resolution 1-09 (Gloria
McClam-Magruder, Denise Killen, Clarence Jackson, and Dorothy
Williams) incorporated in Maryland as “Jericho Baptist
Church Ministries, Inc.” (Jericho MD). The articles of
incorporation identified the Jericho MD Board as operators of
the Church. That same day, Jericho MD filed Articles of
Merger with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory
Affairs indicating that, pursuant to a vote by the Board of
Trustees of Jericho DC, Jericho DC was merged into Jericho
MD. The merger effectively eliminated Jericho DC and made
Jericho MD the new governing body of the Church.
MD first opened bank accounts at Citibank on October 14, 2011
and currently maintains nine bank accounts at Citibank, with
an aggregate balance in excess of $2.1 million. See
Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 6. Signature authority over the
Citibank Accounts currently resides with individuals aligned
with Jericho MD. When opening the Citibank Accounts, Jericho
MD identified as its EIN the number that had been the EIN of
Jericho DC before Jericho DC had merged into Jericho MD. A
letter from counsel for Jericho MD dated December 16, 2010,
and addressed to the IRS, explicitly states that Jericho MD
would henceforth use the EIN that had been previously used by
Jericho DC. See Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 6.
Peebles' passing and Jericho MD's takeover generated
a vigorous legal feud over control of the Church. Since 2010,
the parties in this action, along with several individual
Church members, have participated in no fewer than six
separate lawsuits in federal and state court attempting to
determine fully and finally which entity rightfully governs
the Church and its assets. See Jericho Baptist Church
Ministries, Inc. v. Jericho Baptist Church Ministries,
Inc., No. APM 16-647 (D.D.C. filed Apr. 6, 2016);
Bank of America, N.A. v. Jericho Baptist Church
Ministries, Inc., No. PX 15-02953 (D. Md. filed Sept.
29, 2015); Franklin v. Jackson, No. DKC 14-0497,
2015 WL 1186599 (D. Md. Mar. 3, 2015); George v.
Jackson, No. 2013 CA 007115 B (Sup. Ct. D.C. July 7,
2015) [hereinafter George v. Jackson],
aff'd, Jackson v. George, 146 A.3d 405
(D.C. 2016); Chavez v. Jericho Baptist Church Ministries,
Inc., No. CAL12-13537 (P.G. Cnty. Cir. Ct. Feb. 18,
2014); Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. v.
Peebles, No. CAL10-33647 (P.G. Cnty. Cir. Ct. Oct. 25,
2011), rev'd, No. 2023 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept.
19, 2012); Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. v.
Gloria McClam-Magruder, No. CAL11-00873 (P.G. Cnty. Cir.
Ct. Oct. 25, 2011), rev'd, No. 1953 (Md. Ct.
Spec. App. Sept. 19, 2012).
2013, members of Jericho DC filed suit against members of
Jericho MD in the Superior Court for the District of
Columbia, alleging that they had been wrongfully excluded
from the board of the Church. See George v. Jackson.
On July 7, 2015, and after a three-day bench trial, the D.C.
Superior Court ruled in favor of Jericho DC. It declared that
the surviving members of Jericho DC constituted the valid
governing Board of the Church, and ordered Jericho MD to
cease exercising ownership or control over the Church and its
assets. On September 22, 2016, the District of Columbia Court
of Appeals affirmed that decision. See Jackson v.
George, 146 A.3d 405 (D.C. 2016).
7, 2015, the same day the D.C. Superior Court rendered its
decision in George v. Jackson, Jericho DC's
counsel sent a letter to Citibank informing Citibank of the
Superior Court's decision. See ECF No. 32-2. The
letter states, “[e]arlier today, Judge Stuart G. Nash
of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued an
opinion and order determining the issue of the control and
governing body of your account holder, Jericho Baptist
Ministries, Inc.” The letter also states that
“[t]he purpose of this letter is to provide notice to
the Bank of the court's decision and to direct the Bank
not to permit withdrawals or check disbursements of any kind
pending further action and communication from the
judicially-recognized board.” Id. Enclosed
with the letter was a copy of the opinion and order.
Citibank's counsel alleges that he never received this
DC also emailed Citibank's counsel on July 8, 2015,
advising him that Jericho DC had sent a similar letter to
Bank of America, the bank where Jericho DC held its assets,
informing Bank of America of the D.C. Superior Court's
decision. See ECF No. 33-2. Citibank's counsel
responded to Jericho DC's letter, reminding Jericho DC
that he represented Citibank, and that Citibank's
customer was Jericho MD, not Jericho DC. See ECF No.
August 10, 2015, Jericho DC's counsel sent an email to
Citibank's counsel attaching the order from the District
of Columbia Court of Appeals in Jackson v. George
vacating the D.C. Superior Court's decision to
administratively stay the injunctive relief established by
its July 7th opinion and order. See ECF No. 33-4.
The email did not explain the relevance of the D.C. Court of
Appeals' decision to Citibank and, because Citibank's
counsel never received the July 7th letter, was confused as
to why he was receiving this email. Thus, Citibank's
counsel responded with an email dated August 31, 2015,
Thank you for sending the order from the DC Court of Appeals.
I read it with interest, but I and my client had the same
reaction as set forth in my July 9 letter to you, which
responded to a letter from you enclosing the ...