On December 4, 1978, two weeks after the deaths in Jonestown, Peoples Temple attorney Charles Garry filed a petition with the San Francisco Superior Court to dissolve the corporation.
The decision to take the action was voluntary and by unanimous vote of “the surviving [members of the Board of] Directors in San Francisco,” because, as the petition noted, “[i]t is practically and morally impossible for the corporation to continued its existence.”
The petition was the first of several legal documents filed seeking to dissolve the Temple, including a more substantive and detailed request for court guidance in settling the Temple’s affairs, including dispersal of its assets to “potential claims of known and contingent creditors.”
Temple attorneys noted that the organization had been involved in numerous lawsuits – as defendants in Katsaris v. Peoples Temple, Cobb v. Peoples Temple, and Medlock v. Peoples Temple; and as a plaintiff in Peoples Temple v. Stoen – and asked that the legal proceedings be stayed and the plaintiffs against the Temple be considered among the creditors seeking compensation.
In January 1979, Superior Court Justice Ira Brown granted the petition and appointed attorney Robert Fabian as the Receiver of Temple assets. Judge Brown also ordered all claimants against the Temple to petition the court within four months, and granted the request to treat the plaintiffs against the Temple – including in the nine lawsuits filed after the deaths – as creditors.
The court also authorized the Emergency Relief Committee, an ad hoc inter-religious group organized by the San Francisco Council of Churches, to work with the court and the federal government to transport and bury the unidentified bodies of the Jonestown dead which were still at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.