Robert W. Nixon
Director

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 new quinquennium.

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 are:

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.



 
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