Church and Governmental Plans

HJRF has extensive experience regarding church and governmental plans. On the litigation front, with his former colleagues at Proskauer, Robert Rachal has successfully defended several large Catholic healthcare organizations against claims that their plans are not exempt from ERISA. Representative matters include:

  • Overall v. Ascension, 23 F. Supp. 3d 816 (E.D. Mich. 2014) (obtainedmotion to dismiss victory for the largest Catholic health care provider in the country and the case subsequently settled).
  • Lann v. Trinity Health, 2015 WL 6468197 (D. Mary. Feb. 24, 2015) (defense victory on partial motion to dismiss and the case is settling).
  • Morris v. Daughters of Charity Health System,14-cv-04681-VC (N.D. Cal.) (obtained voluntary motion to dismiss).

Robert and his former Proskauer colleagues continue to represent Catholic not-for-profit health care organizations in “church plan” class actions challenging the plans’ exempt status. Robert also recently assisted in successfully defending the Regional Transit Authority against claims its plan was not a governmental plan exempt from ERISA.  Smith v. Regional Transit Authority, 827 F.3d 412 (5th Cir. 2016). Al Holifield also has experience in representing and defending governmental plans.  SeeCook v. Knox County, Chancery Court of Knox County, Case No. 173942-1; Court of Appeals, Eastern Division, Case No. E2010-02643-COA-R3-CV (2011).

Regarding plan compliance and advice work, HJRF’s attorneys have extensive experience on plan compliance and drafting issues, and have represented church and governmental entities before the IRS.  HJRF’s attorneys have advised church and governmental entities regarding drafting, revising and amending the following:

  • Profit sharing plans;
  • Defined benefit plans;
  • 457 plans;
  • 403(b) plans;
  • Nonqualified plans;
  • Health plans;
  • Cafeteria plans;
  • HIPAA; and
  • Other welfare benefit matters.

Representative church and governmental clients for plan compliance and advice include:

  • Blount Memorial Hospital
  • Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church
  • Diocese of East Tennessee
  • Mary’s Hospital
  • Harriman Utility Board
  • City of Pigeon Forge
  • City of Gatlinburg
  • Wears Valley Ranch
  • Oakmont School
  • ARC of Claiborne County
  • Fountain City United Methodist Church
  • Holston Valley Methodist Conference

Based on his litigation experience, Robert also advises companies and plan fiduciaries on best practices to lessen ERISA exposure for “church plans.”  Finally, Dan Janich, Robert and Al Holifield are prolific writers and speakers in this area.  Representative speeches and articles include:

  • Robert Rachal, co-presenter at the American Conference Institute’s 9thNational Forum on ERISA Litigation, on “New Developments in Church Plan Litigation” (April 2015 Chicago, IL);
  • Dan Janich, co-presenter at the American Conference Institute’s 6thNational Forum on ERISA Litigation, on “Emerging Trends in ERISA Litigation: Actions Against Church Plans” (New York, NY);
  • Robert Rachal, author “View From Proskauer: Pension Plan Administration and Court Deference to the IRS—The ‘Church Plan’ Cases as a Case Study on the Significance of Agency Deference to Plan Administration” in Bloomberg BNA Pension & Benefits Daily (March 2015); and
  • Al Holifield, co-author of the rewrite of Chapter 6, Regulation of Specialized Types of Retirement Income Plans, Employee Benefits Law, BNA (2004-2005).