Submitted: February 17, 2016
A. Foster, attorney general (Thomas J. Donovan, director of
charitable trusts, on the brief), for the petitioner.
Douglas Bersaw, non-lawyer representative appearing by
approval of the Supreme Court under Rule 33(2), on the brief,
for the respondent.
respondent, Loreto Publications, Inc. (Loreto), appeals an
order of the Circuit Court (Leonard, J.) ruling that
Loreto failed to establish that it was statutorily exempt
from filing annual reports with the New Hampshire Attorney
General's Office, see RSA 7:19, :28 (2013), and
requiring it to file reports for fiscal years 2010 to 2014.
The petitioner is the Director of Charitable Trusts of the
Attorney General's Office. We affirm.
trial court found, or the record supports, the following
facts. Loreto is a nonprofit corporation organized under RSA
chapter 292. See RSA ch. 292 (2010 & Supp.
2015). Its stated purpose is "the promotion, and
propagation of the Roman Catholic religion through the
publication, sale, or distribution of books, magazines,
pamphlets or [tracts], and the use of any other
communications media, whether electronic, audio, visual,
printed, written or oral." In or around 2003, the
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) granted Loreto a tax exemption
under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
See 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) (2012). In 2008, the
Charitable Trust Unit of the Attorney General's Office
learned that Loreto was operating as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt
organization in New Hampshire and advised Loreto that New
Hampshire law required it to register with and submit annual
reports to the Attorney General's Office. See
RSA 7:21, II (2013); RSA 7:28, III. In 2009, Loreto
registered with the Charitable Trust Unit but did not file an
annual report for fiscal year 2010 or any subsequent fiscal
year. In 2013, Loreto's 501(c)(3) status was
"automatically revoked [by the IRS] for its failure to
file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive
Interim Director of Charitable Trusts sought an order in the
circuit court requiring Loreto to file its delinquent
reports. Loreto moved to dismiss, arguing that "[s]ince
[it] . . . is NOT a Charitable Trust, but rather a
church/religious organization, [the] court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction under [RSA 547:3, II(a)] to hear this
matter." The court denied the motion. The court held an
evidentiary hearing at which, over Loreto's objection,
Diane Murphy Quinlan, the Chancellor of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Manchester, testified that she was unaware of an
institutional relationship between Loreto and the Roman
Catholic Church. Also over Loreto's objection, Terry
Knowles of the Charitable Trust Unit testified about, among
other things, Loreto's status as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt
argued that it was a "religious organization" or an
"integrated auxiliary" of a religious organization
under RSA 7:19, I, and was therefore exempt from the
reporting requirements. The court rejected this argument and
ordered Loreto to file its delinquent reports. Loreto
567-A:4 (2007) sets forth our standard of review: "The
findings of fact of the judge of probate are final unless
they are so plainly erroneous that such findings could not be
reasonably made." See RSA 490-F:3 (Supp. 2015)
(conferring the jurisdiction, powers, and duties of the
former probate court on the circuit court). Thus, "we
will not disturb the [circuit court's] decree unless it
is unsupported by the evidence or plainly erroneous as a
matter of law." In re Estate of Couture, 166
N.H. 101, 105 (2014).
reasserts its argument that the trial court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over this case. "A party may
challenge subject matter jurisdiction at any time during the
proceeding, including on appeal, and may not waive it."
In the Matter of Ball & Ball, 168 N.H. 133, 140
(2015) (quotation omitted). "We review, de
novo, whether the trial court in this case ha[s] subject
matter jurisdiction." Id.
circuit court has jurisdiction over, among other matters,
"cases involving charitable uses and trusts." RSA
547:3, II (a) (Supp. 2015). RSA 7:21, II defines
"[c]haritable trust" as, among other things, a
"charitable organization, " which includes
"[a]ny person or entity that is determined by the [IRS]
to be a tax exempt organization pursuant to section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code" or "[a]ny other
person or entity that is or holds itself out to be
established, in whole or in part, for any benevolent,
philanthropic . . . or other charitable purpose." RSA
7:21, II (quotation omitted).
was testimony at the evidentiary hearing, and the exhibits
showed, that Loreto registered as a charitable trust with the
Attorney General's Office in 2009 and held 501(c)(3) tax
exempt status until the IRS revoked that status in 2013.
Loreto maintains that it registered under protest and has not
been a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization since 2009.
Regardless of the truth of these assertions, however, Loreto
stated in its articles of incorporation, and its president
testified, that Loreto was organized as a nonprofit
corporation for the charitable purpose of promoting Roman
Catholicism. See Restatement (Third) of Trusts
§ 28, at 9 (2003) ("Charitable trust purposes [may]
include . . . the advancement of religion . . . .").
Thus, the record shows that Loreto "holds itself out to
be" a charitable entity, and is, therefore, a charitable
trust under RSA 7:21, II. Accordingly, we hold that the trial
court had subject matter jurisdiction over this case.
Loreto challenges the relevance and, therefore, the
admissibility of the testimony of Quinlan and Knowles.
"We will not reverse the trial court's decision to
admit evidence absent an unsustainable exercise of
discretion." State v. Ramsey, 166 N.H. 45, 49
(2014). "'Relevant evidence' means evidence
having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is
of consequence to the determination of the action more
probable or less probable than it would be without the
evidence." N.H. R. Ev. 401.
trial court, Loreto sought to establish, among other things,
that it was an "integrated auxiliary" of the Roman
Catholic Church. Quinlan's testimony concerned the
absence of a relationship between Loreto and the Diocese of
Manchester, which tended to make it less probable that Loreto
was an integrated auxiliary. Thus, the trial court did not
unsustainably exercise its discretion by ruling that
Quinlan's testimony was relevant and admissible.
also asserted that it is not a charitable trust. On appeal,
it argues that, from 2010 to 2014 - the years relevant to the
petitioner's complaint - Loreto did not have 501(c)(3)
status because it stopped filing exemption forms with the IRS
after 2009. Thus, its evidentiary argument, as we understand
it, is that Knowles' testimony about Loreto's
501(c)(3) status after 2009 is irrelevant because it
conflicted with the petitioner's exhibits, which,
according to Loreto, show that it held 501(c)(3) status only
until 2009. However, because 501(c)(3) tax exempt
organizations are charitable trusts under RSA 7:21, II,
Knowles' testimony about Loreto's 501(c)(3)
designation was relevant. That this testimony may have
conflicted with other evidence does not render it
inadmissible. See N.H. R. Ev. 402 ("All
relevant evidence is admissible, except as limited by
constitutional requirements or as otherwise provided ...