Robert W. Nixon
The Office of General Counsel (OGC) will continue providing
quality legal service to the General Conference, the North American Division,
and other church organizations around the world who seek legal counsel in the
OGC lawyers provide legal counsel on a wide range of subjects.
When the telephone rings, we give advice. When a draft contract slides out of
an intermail envelope, we review it. Increasingly, church administrative offices
and institutions outside North America consult with the OGC on issues they face
in their own jurisdictions. On an ongoing basis, the OGC works closely with
Adventist Risk Management on a variety of legal challenges.
Beyond such general matters, staff lawyers provide specialized
legal services in their areas of expertise. Public Affairs and Religious Liberty
directors call for special help in defending church members whose jobs are threatened
because they cannot work on Sabbaths. Church administrators call for assistance
on employment and labor issues and in getting visas for employees coming to
the United States. Tax lawyers and CPAs call to consult on income, gift, and
estate tax issues. In complex or distant cases, staff lawyers serve as liaisons
with outside counsel. Staff lawyers participate in international conferences
promoting religious freedom and in meetings of Adventist lawyers.
The five associate general counsels and their areas of emphasis
Walter E. Carson, litigation, parliamentary procedure, contracts,
intellectual property (copyright and trademark), and corporate law--and an associate
since 1976. Carson liaises with the General Conference Corporation and represents
the General Conference in a variety of litigation settings. He is also an accredited
specialist in parliamentary procedure and will serve as parliamentarian of the
General Conference session.
Thomas E. Wetmore, pension, employee benefits, and tax law--and
an associate since 1984. Wetmore represents the General Conference and North
American Division at conferences and work groups and at government agencies
on issues involving his practice areas, which include pension law and the General
Conference's group tax exemption.
Lisa Saveikis Burrow, employment, immigration, and sexual misconduct--and
an associate since 1990. Burrow works closely with Human Resource Services in
both a preventive and responsive capacity, and with the Secretariat in obtaining
temporary work authorization and permanent residence for employees from other
countries. These services also are available to other church entities. In addition,
she helps draft and reviews employment policies for the General Conference and
North American working policies.
Mitchell A. Tyner, church-state law and religious liberty litigation--and
an associate since 1993. Tyner has made many presentations at legal and religious
liberty conferences and has responded to religious liberty issues in 42 countries
during the past five years. He has represented scores of church members who
suffer employment discrimination because of their Sabbath observance or military
discipline because of their conscientious objection. He plans to retire at the
end of 2005.
O. Richard Caldwell, trusts, estates, and tax law--and an associate
since 1993. He also is a Certified Public Accountant and has an M.B.A. and LL.M.
(taxation). Caldwell represents the General Conference Trust Services Department
and the General Conference Auditing Service on a variety of tax and legal issues
and serves as their legal liaison on litigation matters. He also consults with
donors, legal counsel, and financial advisers on major current and deferred
gift and other tax issues. He frequently speaks on such topics as estate planning,
trust administration, and fiduciary taxation.
Robert W. Nixon, general counsel since 1993, is a member of
the Maryland and District of Columbia bars. In addition to directing the overall
work of the OGC, Nixon works closely with General Conference and administrators
of the divisions on a wide variety of issues. He will retire after the session.
Since 1993, Office of General Counsel lawyers have worked solely
for the church with the goal of providing quality legal services at relatively
low cost in this increasingly complex and litigious age.