Watch Jennifer Grace Miller’s Argument Before the Supreme Judicial Court

December 06, 2022

On December 5, 2022, Jennifer Grace Miller represented the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in the matter of Church of the Holy Spirit of Wayland vs. Marilyn J. Heinrich.

The case involves an Episcopal parish church in Wayland, MA which closed due to dwindling membership. On the church property was a “churchyard’” where cremated remains of former parishioners could be interred. Because the parish church was being closed and the property sold, the Episcopal Diocese sought to re-locate the “cremains” to churchyards in neighboring Episcopal parishes, or a space reserved for Holy Spirit parishioners in the local cemetery, or a place of the surviving family’s choosing. Almost all the families gave permission to move their ancestors’ cremains, but a few families objected. Edward Notis-McConarty and Donna Mizrahi filed an action on behalf of the parish and the Episcopal Diocese, seeking a declaration that the church was authorized to re-locate the cremains left in the churchyard. The trial court confirmed the right to move the cremains, but the Appeals Court reversed.

Hemenway & Barnes argued on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese that the Appeals Court erred by recognizing a new common law right of perpetual internment for cremains in a former churchyard, which compromised the Diocese’s ecclesiastical authority by requiring the Diocese to perpetually maintain a former churchyard. Compounding that error, the churchyard is now owned by a church of a different denomination, one that does not believe in cremation.

Hemenway & Barnes team included: Jennifer Grace Miller, Patrick Moore, Dylan O’Sullivan, Edward Notis-McConarty and Donna Mizrahi.

Watch Here

  1. Click here to watch Jennifer Grace Miller’s argument at the SJC
  2. In Search Archive enter Docket Number SJC-13326

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