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Judge James Whittemore Reins In the Garcia v. Scientology Case

Judge James D. Whittemore

Judge James D. Whittemore

If you’ve been following our coverage of Luis and Rocio Garcia’s federal fraud lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, you know that there have been quite a few motions and responses and declarations filed in the last few weeks.

We were in Tampa to see Judge James Whittemore deny an attempt by Scientology to have the attorneys for the Garcias disqualified. Even before that hearing on October 3, Scientology had made a motion to have the case dismissed in favor of the church’s own internal arbitration system. And that question, about arbitration, has produced a number of filings recently. But now, Whittemore says in a new order, the case has been stayed until he can deal with the other big issue in the case — a motion by Scientology to dismiss three of its entities from the lawsuit because of a problem with “diversity jurisdiction.”

Ten months after the Garcias filed the lawsuit in January, Scientology said it suddenly discovered that some of the trustees for the entities in the lawsuit are in California, where the Garcias live. Because of that, the church argues, the fraud lawsuit should not have been filed in a federal court in Tampa. The Garcias complained about the lack of information in the church’s motion and asked for the ability to do discovery on the church’s entities and trustees.

Judge Whittemore didn’t indicate whether he’s going to allow that discovery, but in the meantime he wants the two sides to stop filing motions and responses, and he’s stricken from the record some of the things that have been entered.

We asked a member of our legal team to give us some thoughts on the judge’s order.

The judge is angry that the parties are going in many directions outside of the rules and without authority from him. Accordingly, the purpose of this order is to clear the docket of distracting, unauthorized pleadings starting with the church’s Nov. 4th “response” to the trusts’ response on diversity jurisdiction. The judge points out that it was “curious” that one set of defendants responded to the other set of defendants, and it was outside of the rules. He also points out that Babbitt’s response to the church’s memorandum on arbitration was unauthorized.

The judge is clearly ticked at both parties for distracting the court. He may be angrier with the distractions caused by the defendants, however, because he makes the point that they have repeatedly filed multiple motions for the same relief.

We’ll let you sift through the order to see which filings have been struck. For now, the focus of this case will be on the question of jurisdiction.

 
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SUPER POWER COUNTDOWN: 2 Days to Go!

With Scientology’s “Super Power Building” opening this Sunday, we’re counting down the days with some of the wild schematics of contraptions that were planned for the space-aged fifth floor. Today, we turn to one of our favorite discoveries in the floor plans, the smell and taste stations!

 
SmellDispensing

 
So what’s in or on the smell and taste tables and walls? We found this schematic of individual dispensers…

 
TasteContainers

 
…but we know that might be hard to see, so we’ve blown up some parts of it so you can make out the detail. Here you can see the “Yam” dispenser…

 
Taste1

 
…and here the dispensers for cheddar cheese, spaghetti bolognese, and sauerkraut and sausage, each operated with a button!

 
Taste2

 
Here are a couple of smell dispensers, for magnolia and orange blossom…

 
Smell1

 
…and imagine the lovely notes coming from the lily of the valley and fig dispensers.

 
Smell2

Tomorrow, one last contraption before the building itself opens up on Sunday. Also, starting tonight, the events should be begin happening in Clearwater, so please give us your eyewitness accounts in the comments. And please, keep safe and don’t argue with Scientologists or police!

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on November 15, 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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