Scott Pilutik

I am an attorney and consultant living and working in Manhattan, focusing primarily on church/state constitutional law. I'm a recognized expert on the Church of Scientology organization. I also have strong interests in intellectual property law where it intersects with emerging media, and free speech.

I support the efforts of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, Creative Commons, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am a member of the New York County Lawyers Association and the New York State Bar Association. I also enjoy (watching) hockey and (doing) photograhy.

Online I can be found on Facebook, Twitter. My resume can be viewed here. I can be reached by phone at 212.645.6241 or by e-mail at pilutik[at]

disco-boat owning church accuses san diego discrimination

I’m suddenly unpressed for time, so I think I’ll turn my interbrowsing into something productive by doling out stories with accompanying thoughts, if thoughts occur. First, let’s visit Chula Vista, San Diego, where the San Diego taxpayers are about to eat $313k (see here for great article by Tanya Mannes of the San Diego Union-Tribune), which represents the cost of removing a dilapidated and abandoned partyboat from the bay, where it’s become a danger to everything in the vicinity. It’s a somewhat convoluted story, but the crux is that the boat was owned by Jim Morgan, "a party-boat entrepreneur with a stake in Les Girls, a strip club in San Diego’s Midway District." The boat was "decked out with shag carpet, disco balls, hot tubs and an underwater dance floor with observation windows."

Morgan butted heads with the city in 2002, who, for reasons I’m not clear on, wanted him off the boat, where he was living at the time. Morgan apparently then had a stroke of genuis, and donated the boat to the Mindbridge Church of the Open Mind (who’ve strangely left zero internet footprints), whose pastor, James Ward, "also refused to remove the boat from the bay, defying the Port’s order."

"Ward’s attorney, Gregory Garrison, has said that Ward used the boat for church services, weddings and youth events. Garrison said Morgan donated the boat to the church because he believed low-income and minority people lacked access to the bay."

A lot of information just flew by so I’ll recap: strip-club owner James Morgan dumped what had become a floating liability, outfitted with hot tubs and disco balls, onto a church (Unitarian-Universalist, I believe). Lacking modern techniques for proper hot-tub maintenance (amongst other more serious acts of neglect, I’d imagine), the church promptly allowed the boat to become a deathbarge, and the city was forced to eat the cost–$313k, to remove it from the harbor. Now one need no more elements necessary for a great story, but here’s where it transcends and emits a stink just begging for poking around:

Ward sued the Port District in federal court, saying Port restrictions on anchoring were designed to discriminate against black church members who used Morgan’s boats.

The Port District responded with a counterclaim to force Ward to remove the boat.

A federal judge ruled in January 2007 to uphold the Port’s anchoring regulations. That ruling allowed the Port to take possession of Neptune’s Palace to settle with Ward.

Ward is appealing the discrimination case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Anyway, I’d love to read this lawsuit in some detail, so if you the reader somehow wound up here by the same curious impulses, and you know the name of the case even (my attempts to search by all the usual routes–lexis, west, etc.–have gone for naught). UPDATE – dox have been located, and I’ll write more about this in a bit.

Comments are closed.