Monique Rathbun has waived her right to respond to the Church of Scientology’s petition to the Texas Supreme Court just a couple of days before the initial deadline for her to respond had arrived.
On February 19, the Church of Scientology International and four of its co-defendants in Monique’s harassment lawsuit filed a petition, asking the state high court to review an appellate decision that upheld the trial court’s denial of Scientology’s”anti-SLAPP” motion. Scientology argues that Monique’s lawsuit should be dismissed because it infringes on the church’s free speech rights. What Monique calls harassment — years of Scientology operatives following her and her husband, former Scientology official Mark “Marty” Rathbun; daily demonstrations outside their south Texas home; and even making visits to her family members and co-workers with creepy suggestions about Marty — was really just the church sticking up for itself in ways that should be protected by the First Amendment.
Comal County Judge Dib Waldrip disagreed, saying that Scientology was a business just trying to protect its turf against Marty Rathbun, who had been delivering Scientology auditing independently. (Monique was never a member of the church.) The Texas Third Court of Appeals, after taking more than a year, upheld Waldrip’s decision. But in its petition to the state supreme court, Scientology says that the appellate court erred on some of the facts of the case, and that the state’s appellate courts are in disagreement in general about Texas’s anti-SLAPP statute, the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), which is relatively new.
Before Scientology filed that petition last month, however, Monique stunned observers of the lawsuit by firing her entire legal team. Judge Waldrip has officially signed off on Monique’s bizarre move, and the state supreme court gave her until March 21 — Monday — to submit a response to Scientology’s petition.
Instead, she has waived her right to do so, according to a notation at the court’s online docket.
Our local expert on Texas appellate matters, TX Lawyer, had told us that this was one of the options available to Monique. And he said that it might be used when a party felt confident that the petitioner would not succeed in interesting the court in taking things further.
The state supreme court is under no obligation to consider Scientology’s appeal, but TX Lawyer told us that he believes the court will be interested in this case, with its somewhat outrageous factual allegations and the involvement of Scientology.
Will Monique’s decision not to respond affect the court’s inclination whether to move to the next step and take up this appeal?
We’ll add TX Lawyer’s thoughts as soon as we can get them.
And here he is…
It doesn’t mean much by itself. Respondents typically file waiver letters hoping that the court will just deny the petition for review without further bother. It’s a “nothing to see here” move. Without seeing Monique’s waiver the only thing that seems unusual about this move is the timing. These things are usually filed pretty much immediately after the petition is filed, so as to move the matter more quickly to the justices. Still, that’s no big deal.
As to the briefing, the next step is still for the court to request a response to the petition for review. That only takes one vote from one justice, so it’s likely to happen just because this case is interesting. The vote on full merits briefs will happen after filing of Mrs. Rathbun’s response to the petition for review and the church’s reply brief.
Allison Hope Weiner interviews Karen de la Carriere
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield