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The litigation consisted of two lawsuits: Eustace vs. Dickey, and Dittemore vs. Dickey. The first lawsuit was between the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society and the Christian Science Board of Directors; the second was between John V. Dittemore, a dismissed member of the Board of Directors, and the Board itself. Most of the legal proceedings took place between about 1919 and 1924. The issues and details are enormously complex, and needless to say, are difficult to summarize.
Eustace vs. Dickey
For some time the Christian Science Board of Directors had been concerned about the excessive absenteeism of Lamont Rowlands, a member of the Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society. Attempts to rectify the situation with the help of the other Trustees proved fruitless. On January 3, 1919, the Directors attempted to exercise what they considered their rights under the Manual of The Mother Church and requested the resignation of the three Trustees; the Trustees refused this request.
The Trustees maintained that the January 25, 1898 Deed of Trust (which established The Christian Science Publishing Society) did not allow for the authority of the Board of Directors over the Trustees to continue after the death of Mary Baker Eddy. According to this reasoning, with Eddy’s decease in 1910, the Trustees were to operate independently of the Board of Directors.
On March 17, 1919, the Board of Directors adopted a resolution asserting its authority over the Trustees and removing Trustee Rowlands. In response to this, on March 25, 1919, the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society filed against the Christian Science Board of Directors a suit in equity with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. (A “suit in equity” is a lawsuit asking for court order for action, rather than monetary judgment.) The Trustees asked in their bill that the Court declare the removal of Rowlands void.
That summer a “Master” appointed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held hearings in order “to find the facts, and report the same to the court” in relation to both the Eustace vs. Dickey, and Dittemore vs. Dickey cases. The purpose was to help the Court arrive at its decision. In his report to the Court on February 20, 1920, the Master supplied the facts as required but also rulings of law against the Directors and in favor of the Trustees (and Dittemore).
In late November 1920, both Dittemore vs. Dickey and Eustace vs. Dickey came before full court. By then four other petitions, all of which asserted that the Master had made wrong decisions, had been added to the case. It was on November 23, 1921, that the Court made its final decision, a conclusion that was contrary to that of the Master. The Court made its decision based on a determination of Eddy’s overall intents in the deeds she executed, especially the 1898 Deed of Trust for the Publishing Society. The Court recognized the Church Manual as a major piece of evidence of Eddy’s intent for the authority of the Christian Science Board of Directors, and dismissed the bill in equity of the Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society.
Dittemore vs. Dickey
On March 17, 1919, the same day that the Christian Science Board of Directors adopted the resolution removing Publishing Society Trustee Rowlands, the Board also dismissed one of its own, Dittemore, for his opposition to attempts to reconcile with the Trustees and a general refusal to perform his duties as a Board member. Dittemore felt that the Directors’ authority to do this was questionable, and so Dittemore, as a dismissed Director, filed suit against the Board April 29, 1919, requesting that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declare his dismissal from the Board an illegal act.
As noted earlier, the “Master” appointed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court favored Dittemore on his February 20, 1920, report. However, the Court ultimately ruled against him, although the litigation proceedings did not come to a full close until 1924.
For more information on this topic, you may wish to read Proceedings in Equity 1919-1921 a book published by The Christian Science Publishing Society. The Mary Baker Eddy Library houses a copy of this book for anyone who wishes to look at it.