$2 Million Religious Liberty Settlement Triumphs Over California Governor’s COVID Prompted Overreach

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society recently secured settlements in two major religious liberty cases: South Bay United Pentecostal Church, et al. v. Newsom, et al. and Father Trevor Burfitt v. Newsom, et al. The State of California agreed to pay $2,150,000 in “prevailing party” attorneys’ fees to settle both cases ($1,600,000 in South Bay and $550,000 in Burfitt).

In both cases, the State of California also agreed to enter into permanent injunctions that prohibit the State from ever again imposing discriminatory restrictions on all houses of worship statewide.

In addition, the State of California agreed to pay $2,150,000 in “prevailing party” attorneys’ fees to settle both cases ($1,600,000 in South Bay and $550,000 in Burfitt).

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Charles LiMandri and Paul Jonna, partners at LiMandri & Jonna LLP, expressed satisfaction with the resolutions.

According to LiMandri, “The South Bay case represents an unprecedented three trips to the United States Supreme Court in a one-year period, which resulted in a landmark decision that opened up the churches in California for 40 million people. The permanent injunctions in these cases uphold and protect one of the most cherished principles of our republic: The Free Exercise of Religion.”

Jonna stated that, “The settlement terms in these cases track the United States Supreme Court’s seminal holding in South Bay v. Newsom, and the basic constitutional principle is simple and now cemented into permanent statewide injunctions. Restrictions on churches cannot be more severe than restrictions on retail. We are pleased with the final results in these two important cases.”

Other attorneys who played key roles in securing the victories in both South Bay and Burfitt include Jeffrey Trissell of LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Christopher Ferrara of the Thomas More Society, who was the lead counsel on the Burfitt matter.

The first of its kind in the country

“The injunction in Burfitt was the first of its kind in the country, anticipating what the Supreme Court would later hold definitively, that houses of worship must receive the same treatment as the most favored secular comparators. If favored businesses are allowed 100% occupancy during a pandemic, so must churches be allowed,” said Ferrara.

Meanwhile, Thomas More Society attorneys LiMandri and Jonna are continuing to prosecute and defend cases on behalf of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church. Later this month, the Los Angeles Superior Court will hear the Thomas More Society’s motion to dissolve an unconstitutional preliminary injunction entered against the church. After prevailing in that action, LiMandri and Jonna will seek recovery of the significant attorneys’ fees incurred in that action as well—along with a “multiplier” of their fees for vindicating fundamental constitutional rights.



  • South Bay United Pentecostal Church et al. v. Gavin Newsom et al.   Read the Judgment Entering Permanent Injunction, Awarding Attorney’s Fees, and Dismissing Action with Prejudice issued June 1, 2021, by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in South Bay United Pentecostal Church, et al. v. Gavin Newsom et al., here [https://thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Dkt.-129_Final-Judgment.pdf].



The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, Omaha, Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Fairfield, NJ, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org

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