OneUnited Bank and Charles Street AME church continue to fight in bankruptcy court; hearing set for July 30

Lawyers for OneUnited Bank continued to ratchet up their fight with the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in bankruptcy court Tuesday, on matters ranging from the church’s hierarchy to when the parties could meet to make document requests of one another.

Judge Frank Bailey several times put a stop to the debate. He set a date for a confirmation hearing to begin July 30 to decide whether to approve the church’s reorganization plan.

Charles Street AME, a historic black church, filed for federal bankruptcy protection in March, after failing to persuade OneUnited Bank, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks, to renegotiate nearly $5 million in loans. OneUnited had originally done business with the church as part of its efforts to court its Roxbury neighborhood and fulfill its community lending mission. But when the financial crisis hit and OneUnited ran into its own troubles, the bank’s chairman, Kevin Cohee, was unwilling to work with the church.

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The judge agreed to help the parties sort out their discovery requests early next month in a private meeting. On objections by the church and one of its umbrella organizations to the size of the bank’s document request, Bailey said to the bank’s lawyers, “It strikes me that this is a very, very broad request.”

When the bank’s lawyer complained that it would be difficult to be ready by July 30, Bailey dismissed his comment, saying, “It’s not going to be a happy summer for anybody.’’

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