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MONIQUE RATHBUN FIRES HER ENTIRE LEGAL TEAM, REPORTEDLY SEEKS SETTLEMENT

Monique_Rathbun

 
Shocking news today out of Texas. Monique Rathbun’s legal team filed a notice with the Texas Supreme Court Friday withdrawing from Monique’s harassment lawsuit against the Church of Scientology after they were fired by Monique “without cause.”

The document that showed up this morning in the court’s docket says very little, but we are hearing that news of this decision was delivered to the lawyers by Monique’s husband, Mark “Marty” Rathbun, who was once a high-ranking official in the Church of Scientology.

Marty left Scientology in 2004, then resurfaced in 2009 with a blog critical of church leader David Miscavige. He and his wife allege that a years-long effort to harass them began at that point, with teams of private investigators and other operatives sent to their Texas home to make their lives “a living hell.” Monique Rathbun was never a member of the church, and in 2013 she filed a harassment lawsuit against Miscavige, the church, and some of the operatives who had surveilled and harassed her.

She was represented by Ray Jeffrey, a San Antonio attorney who had already had success litigating against Scientology on behalf of former executive Debbie Cook and former Scientology spies Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold. Jeffrey also brought on attorneys Marc Wiegand and Elliott Cappuccio, and they were joined by appellate attorney Leslie Hyman to deal with the multiple appeals the Scientology defendants filed in the lawsuit.

One of those appeals was recently resolved when, after a year, the Texas Third Court of Appeals denied Scientology’s attempt to overturn a lower court’s ruling. The Rathbuns seemed to be in the driver’s seat, and the church’s appeal of that decision to the Texas Supreme Court felt like a long shot.

If the Rathbuns wanted to settle, they were in a great position to do so, having just won the appeal, so firing the attorneys who might be able to get that settlement seems like a strange move. From a legal standpoint, this move makes little sense, our experts are telling us.

We put in messages to both Rathbuns and all four of their former attorneys and have not heard back from them. We did hear from TX Lawyer, our commenter who is an appellate attorney in Texas and has provided expert guidance on this case. He sent us this…

I just pulled up the motion to withdraw on the Texas Supreme Court website, and all I can think is that this is crazy. To the best of my knowledge, I have never met any of the members of Mrs. Rathbun’s legal team, but just from an outsider’s perspective, they were kicking legal butt. Beating that anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss was a really big deal, as was having Judge Waldrip’s ruling stand up at the Austin Court of Appeals. I note also that the motion to withdraw expressly says that the legal team was discharged “without cause.” That’s lawyer-speak for “we are not giving up our contingency fee.” Whatever broke up this relationship, it would not appear to be the quality of the legal representation.

This case has been going on for about two years now, if memory serves. And while I know that’s the speed of molasses from most civilians, Mrs. Rathbun’s legal team really seemed to have this case set up to inflict some pain on the church in the coming year. Unless the Texas Supreme Court reached out to kill the case, it was going to be back in Judge Waldrip’s courtroom for discovery and motions practice, and probably for trial within the next year or so. There were no more meaningful opportunities for the church to take things up on appeal. It is a mystery to me why you would terminate your attorneys just when things are about to get really, really interesting.

What’s even more bizarre to me is that there does not appear to be any replacement counsel. The legal team is just being fired, without anyone to serve Monique in their stead. That is not wise. Even if the Rathbuns think they are going to work something out in settlement with the church, they have now left themselves completely exposed in the courts. Say the church moves forward with its petition for review at the Texas Supreme Court — is Marty really going to draft up the response brief? And if Scientology files a bunch of motions back in the trial court, who is going to be there to answer them? They would have been so much better off with the lawyers who brought them this far. Now they’re on their own, and you can bet the church will take every advantage of that situation.

Here’s the filing…

Rathbun v. Scientology: Counsel Withdrawal

 
This is a developing story and we will bring you more as soon as we can.

UPDATE: We’re seeing a lot of commenters assuming that a secret settlement deal had already been worked out, and that as part of it Scientology asked that Monique fire her attorneys. As far as we’ve been able to determine, that is not the case. Talking to several people familiar with the case, we believe that settlement talks with Scientology have not yet begun.

UPDATE 2: Several readers have noticed the Ingleside address that Leslie Hyman provides for Monique. We have been told that the Rathbuns have, indeed, moved back recently to Ingleside and are no longer living in the San Antonio area.

UPDATE 3: Just received this from one of our regular legal helpers: “I think this is the most absurd action by a client that I have seen in my 20 years of practicing, except for actions taken by prisoners or mentally disturbed plaintiffs.”

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 1, 2016 at 11:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

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

 

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