Ken Dandar gets his second chance today to convince federal Judge Virginia Covington in Tampa, Florida that his civil rights are being violated by a conspiracy between Florida’s state courts and the Church of Scientology.
Dandar is asking Covington to stop a proceeding in a Florida state court, where Scientology is asking retired Judge Crockett Farnell to award the church $1.1 million in sanctions against Dandar. At a hearing on November 19, Covington told Dandar she had no standing to stop what was happening in Farnell’s court. Dandar then filed an amended complaint which included new details about what he alleges is a years-long conspiracy by Scientology to corrupt the state courts.
After the 1 pm hearing, we’re hoping to hear from Dandar about whether his new evidence convinces Covington that Scientology, its leader David Miscavige, and its attorney Wally Pope have been operating as “state actors” in an attempt to ruin him financially.
Scientology, meanwhile, fought back this week by asking Covington to sanction Dandar in federal court (on top of the million-plus it wants in state court sanctions).
We have that motion by the church below. It’s an impressive list of Dandar’s lowlights in court, which must have taken a fair amount of research over at the offices of Scientology’s well-heeled legal team.
We’ll be surprised if Covington pays much attention to it. But she may also, as she has so far, largely ignore Dandar’s evidence of a conspiracy to corrupt Florida’s courts. At the November 19 hearing, Dandar tells us Covington stuck to legal questions about her ability to step in and halt a state court’s proceedings. Dandar may face the same problem today.
In the meantime, Dandar has asked for yet another federal injunction in the court of Judge Steven Merryday.
It was Merryday who ordered Dandar not to remove himself from the 2009 federal lawsuit he had filed against Scientology on behalf of Virginia Britton after the death of her son, Kyle Brennan. But Dandar had promised never again to sue the church after the 2004 settlement over the death of Lisa McPherson, Scientology argued, and state Judge Robert Beach agreed, issuing sanctions against Dandar for not dropping Britton’s suit. (Dandar denied that he’d promised never to sue the church after the 2004 settlement, and argued that Florida law prevented an attorney from putting that kind of “practice restriction” on himself anyway.)
But Merryday ordered Dandar not to drop Britton because she could find no other lawyer in the state who was willing to take on Scientology. The tug of war over Dandar between dueling state and federal judges was unprecedented, local legal experts said.
Dandar eventually extricated himself from the situation when he did find a replacement to represent Britton. But Scientology is still pushing a state court to fine Dandar more than $1 million for supposedly breaking his 2004 agreement.
So Dandar is now going back to Merryday, asking the federal judge to step in and prevent a state judge from ruining him financially, when he was only following Merryday’s orders to begin with.
Is your head spinning yet? Well, here are the legal documents themselves, which are even more complex.
First, the motion to sanction Dandar filed by Scientology…
And here’s Dandar’s request for an injunction which he filed with Judge Merryday…
AFTERNOON UPDATE: DANDAR LOSES AGAIN
“I lost. I lost big time,” Dandar told us today by telephone after the hearing before Judge Virginia Covington.
“I didn’t stop them in state court,” he said, meaning that he could not convince Judge Covington to grant an injunction and prevent the state court sanctions order Dandar is expecting.
Dandar told us that Covington said he had no evidence that retired Judge Robert Beach had received anything from Scientology in the conspiracy Dandar was alleging.
“I’m telling her that’s not what the law is. It’s that they had an agreement with him. But she said that’s not enough,” he said.
Dandar says that Covington gave him the option to file another amended complaint, but Dandar says he thinks his only real options at this point are to drop his federal lawsuit or appeal Covington’s decision.
Meanwhile, he says, federal Judge Steven Merryday denied Dandar’s request for an injunction, saying that he didn’t have jurisdiction.
“I can drop it all and let this retired judge hammer me, or appeal it. Not even the press showed up today. No one cares but me,” Dandar said. “That’s OK, I have clients to represent. The problem is they’re going to try to interfere with me representing my clients,” Dandar said, referring to what Scientology will do once it gets the $1.1 million sanctions order against him.
Dandar has been unable to get federal judges to stop the state courts from sanctioning him, and the state courts, he says, aren’t following Florida law, which prevent a lawyer being put under a “practice restriction” — in this case, a promise not to sue Scientology after a 2004 settlement, which Dandar says he never agreed to.
“Two federal judges are calling it a practice restriction, which is illegal, but state judges are upholding it. And the state bar is ignoring it because it’s Wally Pope. And it’s shameful,” Dandar said.
“I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to survive this. It’s going to be a difficult road. When you’re up against pure evil and the system you believe in doesn’t protect you, you wonder, what are we doing?”
UPDATE: We have Judge Steven Merryday’s order denying Dandar’s motion for an injunction.
Although Merryday explains that he has no jurisdiction to interfere with the state court that is going to be sanctioning Dandar, he makes it pretty clear what he thinks about the state court’s action up to this point…
A brief comment on the merits seems timely. The state court threatens Dandar with the assessment of attorneys’ fees incurred by Scientology in this action because the state court has elected to (erroneously) construe a provision in the settlement agreement in the McPherson action as a law practice restriction (a restriction uniformly condemned as unethical in law practice in the United States). The state court next resolved (erroneously) to enforce the construed restriction by punitive sanctions. I have stated in my orders my preliminary conclusions about the state court post-judgment proceedings in the McPherson action, which I find, based on the information presented in this action, acutely troubling. The Eleventh Circuit, although expressing sympathy with my view of the proceedings in state court, reversed the earlier injunction and explicitly declared the matter outside the reach of the federal injunctive power.
Here’s the motion itself…