Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Philadelphia Court Upholds Stephen Girard's Intentions

Stephen Girard, late in life
Painted by J.R. Lambdin

Judge O'Keefe, Administrative Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, sitting in the Orphans' Court Division, issued an opinion and order, dated August 21, 2014 (filed and released on August 25, 2014), regarding the administration of Girard College.

The Court denied a petition filed in June, 2013, by the Board of Directors of City Trusts, for proposed temporary modifications of the Last Will of Stephen Girard in the Estate's operations of the 1-12 grade boarding school.

The changes would have altered its residential nature, and cut its grades from 12th down to 8th, with no graduation. Fiscal reasons were cited as the necessity for such actions.

These proposed changes required deviation from the stated intentions of Stephen Girard, characterized as the "Father of Philanthropy" in a 1997 article in The Wall Street Journal.

The case is important for both its procedural aspects and for its substantive ruling.

A copy of the Opinion Sur Decree and the Court's Decree are posted informally here (PDF, 20 pages).

The Philadelphia Inquirer posted an article about the ruling, entitled Judge: Girard must remain a boarding school, keep high school programs, by Martha Woodall (08/26/14).

I and our law firm (Serratelli, Schiffman & Brown, P.C., in Harrisburg, PA), including Carol Verish, Esq., served as counsel for the Girard College Alumni Association​, and for the representative students and parents, throughout the proceedings in their opposition. Local counsel in Philadelphia was Gerard M. McCabe, Esq., of Mitts Law.

The Alumni, students, and parents are gratified by the ruling.

This decision, like any other ruling by a court of common pleas in Pennsylvania, is subject to rights of appeal.

Update: 2014-08-28: