Cooper, White & Cooper LLP successfully represented several members of the Sikh temple in Fremont in their attempt to have elections held for the temple’s Supreme Council. On January 20, 2004, the California Court of Appeals, First District in the case Ala Singh et al v. Gurdial Singh et al. (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1264, upheld a lower court decision that the by-laws of the temple required that members of the Council face election each year and that the process should be overseen by a special master appointed by the court. The incumbent board of directors claimed to have lifetime tenure.
The key question on appeal was whether the trial court had improperly decided a religious matter in interpreting the temple’s governing documents, which make reference to Sikh principles and traditions. Cooper’s Stephen Kaus and Merrit Jones successfully argued that the temple was a religious corporation and, if possible, the court should decide issues of governance using neutral principles. Doing so, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling that elections should be held.