Office of General Counsel
The Office of General Counsel in advising and representing the Church and its institutions shall in all matters and at every opportunity give legal counsel consistent with the laws of the applicable jurisdiction. Above and beyond basic legal requirements, the Office of General Counsel advises the Church as to what appears to be fair, just, moral and equitable, thereby seeking to direct the Church toward a position of moral and social leadership in harmony with scripture and reflective of Christian love.
The Office of General Counsel, or OGC as it is commonly called, is the legal services office of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Its two largest “clients” are the General Conference and the North American Division. However, within those two client bases the OGC receives dozens of administrative, financial, and departmental requests, with diverse needs, for legal counsel and assistance.
The OGC also serves a wider field beyond the immediate General Conference building. It provides legal counsel and assistance to the various divisions of the World Church in cooperation with their local legal counsel. The OGC also serves as general counsel to the institutions of the General Conference and North American Division or provides legal support to their outside legal counsel. Organizations such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), publishing houses, Adventist World Radio, Christian Record Services, and Hope Channel are also served by the OGC.
The lawyers in the Office of General Counsel deal with a wide range of legal work such as tax, nonprofit issues, employment, intellectual property (trademarks and copyright), corporate, commercial transactions, immigration, and real property. The OGC lawyers also focus a great deal on preventative law planning and educating their clients regarding new laws and developments in the changing legal environment. In addition to defending or initiating any lawsuit to which their clients are parties, it also has a unique litigation practice of counseling with or sometimes litigating on behalf of individuals whose religious practices are being adversely impacted in employment, military service, and penal institutions. The OGC also enters into other cases through the process of filing amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs to support positions of those who are being deprived of religious freedoms or dealing with other matters of significance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The office is directed by General Counsel Karnik Doukmetzian and Deputy General Counsel Todd R. McFarland with the assistance of Associate General Counsels, Justin Baham, Anna Gabriella Colon, Ruben Gandia and Thomas E. Wetmore.