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Our Texas legal expert helps us understand what’s next in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit

TexasJustice

 
When news broke that Monique Rathbun had fired her legal team, we turned to commenter “TX Lawyer” for help understanding the ramifications of her decision. If you’re a regular reader of the site, you know that for a couple of years TX Lawyer has helped us understand the arcane twists and turns of Monique’s lawsuit, especially after it was held up by a couple of Scientology appeals that took quite a while to resolve.

It was obvious that TX Lawyer knew his stuff, but we were curious about his credentials. We did verify his real identity and confirmed that he is, in fact, a lawyer who specializes in Texas appellate law.

This week’s news produced a lot of questions and speculation at this website and others about what’s going on, and we wanted to clear up a few things with TX Lawyer about what’s likely to happen next.

The Bunker: For more than a year, Monique Rathbun’s harassment suit against Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, has been on hold as the church appeals a trial court order denying its argument (in an “anti-SLAPP motion”) that its free speech rights were being violated by the lawsuit. The trial court judge in Comal County, Dib Waldrip, denied that motion, the Austin Court of Appeals took more than a year to uphold that decision, and now Scientology is planning to petition the state supreme court for further review. But then, we reported that one of Monique Rathbun’s attorneys, Leslie Hyman, filed a motion at the Texas Supreme Court asking that the temporary stay on the lawsuit be lifted. She announced in the document that she and the other attorneys on Monique’s side — Ray Jeffrey, Elliott Cappuccio, and Marc Wiegand — had been fired “without cause,” and so they need to be formally removed from the case. (As you explained to us Monday, “without cause” is lawyer-speak indicating that the attorneys still expect to be paid out of any settlement that may occur in the case.) The attorneys are asking for the stay to be lifted so they can then enter a similar document with Judge Waldrip’s court, where the lawsuit originated. We understand that it’s actually Judge Waldrip who will issue an order releasing the attorneys from the case. Isn’t that correct?

TX Lawyer: Both courts can grant a motion to withdraw whoever is appearing before them, as each has different jurisdiction. Because the case is pending simultaneously in both courts, it is sensible to ask both of them to allow withdrawal from the representation. There are some instances where it really does matter who is withdrawing and in what courts. For example, a client might bring in appellate counsel to handle an interlocutory appeal, then decide to terminate the appellate lawyer, but not the trial counsel. In that case, the trial lawyers would still represent the client in the trial court (and the appellate court, if they have made an appearance there). But Mrs. Rathbun is terminating everybody, so everybody has to withdraw everywhere. (Except the Austin Court of Appeals, since the case is already done there.)

The Bunker: Will the Texas Supreme Court hold a hearing of some type in relation to Leslie’s motion?

TX Lawyer: There will be no hearing on the motion to withdraw in front of the Texas Supreme Court. The motion will be decided internally, without any kind of public proceeding. And practically speaking, since the motion to withdraw is unopposed, it is going to be granted without any fuss whatsoever. Mrs. Rathbun made the decision to fire her attorneys, and the court will respect that decision. And since the motion to withdraw that will be made to Judge Waldrip will also be unopposed by Scientology, there is no way there will be a hearing on that motion either. Monique’s lawyers will just submit an agreed order, the judge will sign it, and that will be all.

The Bunker: Until those things happen, for now Ray Jeffrey’s team are still the attorneys of record for Monique unless and until they are released by the court. Readers have asked, what happens if the Supreme Court or Judge Waldrip deny this motion? Can they force Monique to hold on to these attorneys, even if she’s fired them?

TX Lawyer: There is no chance at all that either the Texas Supreme Court or Judge Waldrip will deny an unopposed motion to withdraw when the withdrawing attorneys have been terminated by their client. Literally, zero chance. Federal courts occasionally make lawyers stick around against their will until new lawyers come in, but I have never heard of a Texas state court doing anything similar in a civil (i.e., non-criminal) case. If the lawyers are fired, they’re out, and the clients get to deal with the consequences.

The Bunker: Many readers, feeling an understandable concern for Monique’s welfare, have said they assume she just became tired of the litigation and wanted out. But isn’t it true that if Monique asked Ray Jeffrey to dismiss the case outright, even without a settlement, he’d be obliged to do that?

TX Lawyer: If the client directs the lawyer to dismiss the case, the lawyer is obligated to follow that direction. In very, very rare instances, that might result in the lawyer bringing a lawsuit against the client, but it is the client’s decision whether to prosecute the case, not the attorney.

The Bunker: So without a hearing to slow things down, what do you think are the chances that the February 19 deadline for Scientology’s petition to the state supreme court stays in place?

TX Lawyer: That filing deadline is very unlikely to move unless there’s a really darned good excuse, like if somebody on the church’s side gets hospitalized. First 30-day extensions of any filing deadline in the state appellate courts are always granted, unless there is some kind of real-world event happening in the meantime. Same thing with second 30-day extensions, which is where the church is at the moment. I would not be anxious to attempt a third extension, having already gotten the “Further extensions will be disfavored” message that the church has already received. As a very new associate, I did actually have to file for a third motion for extension of time to file before one of the intermediate appellate courts. We got it, but it was far from a sure thing, and it would have been a disaster if it had been denied.

The Bunker: A lot of our readers are speculating that the Rathbuns have already worked out a settlement with Miscavige and Scientology. But if that’s not the case, what might Miscavige, given Scientology’s long track record of scorched-earth legal tactics, do to take advantage of Monique’s exposure?

TX Lawyer: If Miscavige wants to mess with the Rathbuns, what could he do? Just push forward with the litigation. It’s pretty unlikely that any other attorneys are going to appear on behalf of Mrs. Rathbun to handle the case after she has (a) given away 40 percent of any recovery to Ray Jeffrey and his colleagues, and (b) shown herself (themselves, more likely) to be so unpredictable that they’ll fire an accomplished and successful legal team for reasons that are, uh, unclear at best? There is literally no downside for the church if it moves forward with the petition for review at the Texas Supreme Court, and they’re far more likely to end up with a favorable result without good lawyers on the other side. And even if the Supreme Court decides not to take the case, how are the Rathbuns going to deal with a dozen or so attorneys back in the trial court, without a legal team of their own? That’s why this is so crazy. I can’t read Marty Rathbun’s mind. All I can do is look at this from an outside legal observer’s perspective. And I can’t come up with any realistic way this move makes sense. If Marty thinks he knows more about David Miscavige than Ray Jeffrey does, I suspect Marty is about to find out that he knows way less about the courtroom than Miscavige’s lawyers know.

 
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The spirit of L. Ron Hubbard manifested in a Los Angeles chimney last night

Finally, we got to see OTVIIIsgrrr8 in action as our favorite satirist, also known as Jeffrey Augustine, put on a command performance last night on the show Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel.

Now, Ghost Adventures is about as credible as one of L. Ron Hubbard’s dust jacket biographies, but Jeff was a hoot as he put on his best paranormal valence and played along. More importantly, he spent his time wisely, telling the viewers of the Travel Channel all about Hubbard’s wacko “Affirmations” and his post-war party years performing sex magick rituals with rocket scientist and occult eccentric Jack Parsons in Pasadena.

But best of all, while talking to host Zak Bagans about Hubbard’s hypnotic control of people, Zak was spooked when Jeff’s cat Lost Felix suddenly dropped out of the chimney into the fireplace behind them. Observer managed to catch it in a GIF:

We feel certain that Felix has a body thetan that spent a previous life as a certain former science fiction author. Get that cat on the cans!

 
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Today’s big game and Scientology’s big ad

Your proprietor is having company in his underground bunker today to watch the Super Bowl, but we expect they won’t mind if we live-blog like mad when and if Scientology’s ad shows up.

Remember how this usually goes: For the past three years, Scientology has purchased local advertising time in certain markets in order to show a 30-second spot during the game. This is much less expensive than buying a national ad, about $1 million instead of $5 million.

The ad tends to show up during the pre-game show and right after the end of the first half. When it happens, we like to gather Twitter reactions from viewers, which tend to be hilarious. keep your eyes peeled.

If Scientology does run an ad, it will likely be a 30-second version of this minute-long video they posted last month at the church’s YouTube channel…

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 7, 2016 at 07:00

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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