The court finds that Plaintiffs have not acted in bad faith, recklessly, or with an improper purpose. Accordingly, in light of the court’s duty to carefully exercise its inherent powers, the court declines to impose the drastic sanctions Defendants seek. See Hearns, 530 F.3d at 1132 (noting drastic nature of sanction of dismissal with prejudice); Chambers, 501 U.S. at 44 (noting courts must exercise inherent powers with restraint). Mr. Turner’s allegations about Plaintiffs’ behavior in filing this case, apparently adopted by Mr. Driscoll (see Driscoll Mot. at 3), are conclusory at best and do not demonstrate that Plaintiffs have acted improperly. Merely filing a complaint alleging RICO violations for Defendants’ part in the alleged misuse of Plaintiffs’ donations to MHC does not constitute bad-faith conduct, even if the allegations case Defendants in an unfavorable light. (See Turner Mot. at 9-10.) In addition, Plaintiffs’ complaint is not frivolous on its face (see generally Compl.), and there is no evidence other than Defendants’ conclusory allegations that Plaintiffs filed this suit merely to harass and disparage Defendants (cf. Turner Mot. at 4 (arguing that Plaintiffs’ failure to serve “can lead to only one conclusion. . . . The Plaintiffs and their counsel sought to harass, disparage, and defame Mr. Turner through the public act of filing a lawsuit”)). Furthermore, Plaintiffs refute this allegation, stating that they “never had a desire for retribution nor to harass [Mr.] Turner or [Mr.] Driscoll.” (Resp. at 6.) Plaintiffs also did not act in bad faith by publicizing the case to garner support for their cause. Finally, Plaintiffs’ failure to raise the necessary funds to fully litigate their suit before filing it, Plaintiffs’ counsel’s failure to respond to Mr. Turner’s offer to accept service, and Plaintiffs’ failure to dismiss their claims of their own accord after the 90-day window for service had passed are not so far outside the bounds of acceptable litigation conduct that Plaintiffs should be sanctioned. Simply put, Plaintiffs have done nothing to “defile the very temple of justice.” Haeger, 813 F.3d at 1244 (internal quotations and alterations omitted) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46). Plaintiffs have not committed any acts that indicate bad faith, recklessness, or an improper purpose.
For these reasons, the judge dismissed the suit without prejudice:
Based on the foregoing analysis, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants’ motions to dismiss (Dkt. ## 4, 7). The court DISMISSES Plaintiffs’ claims without prejudice.
Dated this 25th day of August, 2016.
JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge
According to Brian Jacobsen, the plaintiffs would consider moving forward again if funds were available.
Even after he left Mars Hill Church, Sutton Turner was told by Mars Hill lawyers that he shouldn’t reveal how much Mars Hill spent from their Global Fund on missions. Now he has done so.
Mars Hill Global
Mars Hill Global began in 2009 to raise money from the global audience (those who listened via podcast) to help fund the mission of Mars Hill Church: “Making Disciples and Planting Churches.” Until late 2011, Mars Hill had not significantly funded international church planting but was heavily invested in US church planting. From 2009 to 2012, Mars Hill spent $8.6M in U.S. church planting and $170k outside of the U.S.
When I joined Mars Hill in 2011, I built relationships with the Kale Hewyott Church in Ethiopia to train church planters there. My passion for Ethiopia (which existed before I arrived at Mars Hill) began to dominate the message of Mars Hill Global. In hindsight, I see how many believed that the only reason Mars Hill Global existed was to fund Ethiopian church planting.
When people started to question the distribution of funds given to Mars Hill Global, the church brought in ECFA and independent auditors, Clark Nuber. Both groups gave Mars Hill a clear opinion that the church had done nothing wrong. In spite of these findings, we felt led to send 3765 emails and 6000 letters to 100% of donors to Mars Hill Global from 2011 to 2014 to clarify their gift intent. Less than 40 families responded; Mars Hill Church sent an additional $40,000 to Ethiopia because donors requested their donations to Mars Hill Global be for Ethiopian church planting.
A full and total timeline from 2009 to 2014 with videos, blogs and other information is stored here.
From 2012 to 2014, Mars Hill Church spent $13.7M in church planting in the US and sent $545k to Ethiopia and India. During its existence, Mars Hill Church invested over $23M in church planting in the US and around the world. This amount is over and above the general and administrative costs of Mars Hill Church’s central operations and staffing. (47% of the funds given to Mars Hill Global from 2012-2014 were large donations from a small number of donors who specifically asked prior to giving for their donations to be counted in Global. Many of these donors did not attend one specific Mars Hill location and wanted their donations supporting all Mars Hill operations including U.S. and international church planting.)
Many have asked for these numbers. There was I time when I was restricted from providing these numbers. Now, everyone has the Mars Hill Global information that I had when I resigned in September 2014 (Eph. 5:13).
I knew it wasn’t much in comparison to what was spent on the US locations, and as it turns out, it wasn’t. This still doesn’t tell us how much came earmarked for international missions and how much was spent on international missions. And by earmarked for missions, I mean how much was given to the Global Fund from 2012-2014?
The rest of the post provides additional information on executive compensation, the governing board and Result Source.