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Luis Garcia Responds: We Don’t Trust Scientology’s Trustee Ploy

TrustNoOneYesterday, Luis and Rocio Garcia of Irvine, California filed their response to Scientology’s latest attempt to derail their federal fraud lawsuit in Florida. Attorney Scott Pilutik took pains to help us all understand the basic (if lesser known) legal concept of “diversity jurisdiction” that Scientology had put into question with its latest motion.

Scientology argued, nearly ten months after the Garcias filed their lawsuit against five Scientology corporate entities in January, that the Garcias had erred by filing in a federal court in Tampa. Three of the church’s entities are trusts with trustees in California, and since the Garcias are also in California, a federal court in Florida was not the correct place for the lawsuit. One of the three entities, CSRT, is particularly key to the suit because of the amount of money the Garcias had given it, and its dismissal might cripple the lawsuit.

Now, the Garcias are responding, and angrily point out that it’s awfully late for the church to be discovering the location of its own corporate officers.

Pilutik had anticipated that response, and told us that anger over Scientology’s tardy motion would not be enough to keep the lawsuit from being dismissed. So we asked Scott to give the Garcia response a good look and let us know what he thought of its argument. Have the Garcias come up with a way to counter this problem of California trustees?

It’s difficult at this point to say whether the case definitely will be dismissed, but Garcia attorney Ted Babbitt offers very good reasons why far more needs to be known about the three diverse entities before federal court gives it the boot. Babbitt points to the same deficiency I identified a week ago — the scarcity of actual facts in the declarations alleging California residency/citizenship. Babbitt uses the term “bare allegations,” and points out that we don’t even know, without the trust instruments, whether CSRT and USIMT are really trusts, or even the identities of the six of the nine trustees.

“The identities of the unnamed members of the Trust Defendants remain exclusively within the knowledge of the Defendants, and must be disclosed to permit a proper inquiry into this Court’s jurisdiction”

Babbitt also hints at the same argument I suggested might be made, evidenced by his implied air quotes around “trusts” — just because Scientology calls CSRT and USIMT trusts, it doesn’t necessarily follow that that’s what we’ll find if/when the court grants leave to dig around, trust instrument or not. He refers to CSRT and USIMT as “nominal parties” and requests leave to amend the complaint, either to drop those defendants if the court determines that they are not diverse, or perhaps to treat them, together with FLAG, as one defendant, since they effectively operate in this context as FLAG’s bank accounts. Or perhaps he’s referring to an opportunity to amend and drop the non-diverse defendants entirely; he’s not entirely clear on this issue, but I don’t think he needs to be at this point.

He also argues that the citizenship IASA is hardly determinable from Scientology’s motion papers, and offers contradictory evidence suggesting that its true “nerve center” is in Florida, not California.

Babbitt rightly requests pointed discovery to properly determine the citizenship of each of the entities, and I can’t imagine his request will be refused. The question will be one of scope, I believe — just how big a shovel will the court grant Babbitt?

In the final section Babbitt makes the sanctions argument I suggested he might, and you can practically sense him grinding his teeth. He calls Scientology’s eleventh hour claim of “mistake” “specious.” In the first section of the motion he rightly expresses incredulity that “with Defendants’ scorched earth approach to litigation and the layers of lawyers engaged to defend them” such a “mistake” could be made on a threshold jurisdictional issue.

I might also have argued that even if you take Scientology at its word regarding the nature and status of CSRT and USIMT, their failure to immediately identify the “mistake” tellingly undermines the character of those entities; that is, Scientology didn’t notice the mistake perhaps because their labeling them as trusts amount to legal fictions — res ipsa pretty much loquitur.

Thanks for that assessment, Scott. And here’s the document itself. We’d love to hear some more commentary from our numerous attorney readers.

 
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KneepadsLet’s Pitch In for Some Kneepads for Clearwater’s Mayor

It’s getting tough to be keep up with all of the things Scientology wants for its upcoming events from the city of Clearwater. But put yourself in Mayor George Cretekos’s place. He’s caved to so many of Scientology leader David Miscavige’s multiplying demands we figure it must be getting tough for him to keep up. But then we spotted this item on the Internet and thought, now that’s what George needs — kneepads with wheels!

You probably heard what happened yesterday, courtesy of Charlie Frago at the Tampa Bay Times. We had reported that the big GAT II/Super Power grand opening event was coming up fast — the weekend of November 15-17. Yesterday, the church got more specific, telling the city that the big Super Power event will take place at 1 pm on Sunday the 17th.

We had also previously told you that a permit for street and sidewalk closures required notice of 30 days. But the church says it wants extensive — nay, astounding — closures for the event, and it wants them as early as this Friday! It also wants Fort Harrison Avenue shut down from Friday evening the 15th to Sunday afternoon!

This Sunday we had major streets here in New York closed down for less than a full day for the marathon, and it was a great street party. But we cannot imagine closures like that, of a major artery, for a full weekend.

And this, after David Miscavige has already flouted city codes by chopping down a couple of healthy live-oak trees to make way for his big tent and has also put a giant mural on his tent in violation of city signage ordinances.

Oh, and that’s not all. The church’s film crew wants to remove street lights and signals at the main intersection outside the Super Power Building to facilitate filming. And get this — it wants all of these things RIGHT NOW, with only days for the city to approve them, after it took Scientology 15 years to complete the building, a project so delayed it racked up $435,000 in fines.

There are so many places George needs to be on his knees in the coming days, we need to get him that contraption as soon as we can!

 
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How Mark Bunker Became Wise Beard Man

Another interesting video from Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and Angry Gay Pope…

 

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on November 5, 2013 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

 

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