Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Real parties in interest professors sued petitioner university for marital status discrimination and breach of their employment agreement. The university brought a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, a motion for summary adjudication. Respondent Superior Court of Orange County (California) denied the motion for summary judgment and refused to even consider summary adjudication. The university petitioned for a writ of mandate.

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The university, affiliated with the Church of Christ, fired two professors because of the perception that they had had an affair while one professor’s divorce was still pending. The professors sued the university. The trial court denied the university’s motion for summary judgment and, citing Cal. R. Ct. 313(a), refused to even consider summary adjudication because the university had not organized its points and authorities by cause of action. The university petitioned for writ relief. The court held that the trial court erred in refusing to consider summary adjudication. Nothing in the governing rules required points and authorities to be organized by each cause of action. However, the court denied the petition, stating that it could not say as a matter of law that the ministerial exception applied. The professors were nonordained and they taught a subject, marriage and family counseling, that was not necessarily religious. Additionally, there were triable issues of fact as to whether the university discriminated against the professors to the degree that it chose not to renew one contract due to a rule against two married people making up the full-time faculty in one department.


The court denied the university’s request for a writ of mandate.