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MONIQUE RATHBUN BLAMES FORMER ATTORNEYS AS SHE PLANS TO DROP LAWSUIT

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Monique Rathbun has asked the Texas Supreme Court to lift the stay in her harassment lawsuit against the Church of Scientology so she can dismiss the suit itself.

In a bizarre document, Monique makes accusations that her former attorneys — Ray Jeffrey, Marc Wiegand, Elliott Cappuccio, and Leslie Hyman — had made it “abundantly clear” that the lawsuit was “not worth it financially,” and that the attorneys had filed defective paperwork that allowed Scientology’s attorneys to file appeals that caused delay. Also, she says that these defects were put into the complaint of her lawsuit, originally filed in Comal County in August 2013, over her “strong objections.”

“I do not have the resources, the time, nor the motivation to litigate in the Supreme Court of Texas against Scientology’s army of lawyers in the defense of errors made by attorneys who subordinated my wishes in favor of interests inimical to my own,” Monique writes.

This comes after Monique’s attorneys had actually been on a winning streak, with two major decisions against Scientology at the trial court and appellate court levels. Now, however, Monique says she wants to drop the matter because, she says, her lawyers had not listened to how she wanted the case to proceed.

“I’m mystified by the references to their former attorneys,” Ray Jeffrey told us after we read the contents of the document to him. “And I strongly disagree with any implication that the lawyers were unwilling to go forward because there was not enough money in the case. We were fired, we didn’t abandon the case.”

He added, “I will say that the case has put a lot of strain on the Rathbuns, and I wish them well.”

We turned to our expert, an attorney who has handled appellate matters in Texas who uses the handle TexasLawyer, for his reaction:

Well I did not see that coming. If you want to dismiss the lawsuit, now is probably a good time to do it. As things stand at the moment, Monique is still the prevailing party on the anti-SLAPP motion, so the church shouldn’t be able to recover its attorneys’ fees under that statute. As a procedural matter, I expect the Supreme Court will lift the stay in short order, that a motion to dismiss or a notice of nonsuit will be filed with Judge Waldrip, and that the whole case will go away like it had never been filed in the first place. Which means the Squirrel Busters will be free to go back to work, as there will no longer be a temporary injunction in place to prevent the stalking and harassment.

The grandstanding in the motion is really something. It states pretty clearly that Ray Jeffrey and the rest of the legal team performed a “retreat” from the case and told Monique that the case was not financially worth litigating. That seems rather unlikely to me, given how diligently things appeared to be proceeding throughout the motions practice in the trial court and the arguments on appeal. I can maybe see the lawyers declining to pursue the client’s preferred strategy because it didn’t make sense to do so, but it’s hard to see the case overall as something they were not willing to continue litigating.

The motion also shows some considerable frustration with the delays caused by the appeal of the anti-SLAPP ruling. That is entirely understandable. But is it really a surprise to Marty Rathbun that a key component of Scientology’s defense strategy is to delay the case at every opportunity? Suing the church requires a considerable amount of patience, and it sounds like the Rathbuns’ patience ran out. That’s too bad, and I hope they don’t end up regretting it if the church’s harassment resumes.

There is nothing in the document referring to a settlement being reached with the defendants. Because Monique fired her lawyers “without cause,” she would be required to pay them for the work they had already done, a contingency fee of something like 40 percent of anything she received in a settlement.

Ray Jeffrey and the other attorneys will have to wonder if such a deal has been made, and how they will get a piece of it after what Monique has said in this document.

The other alternative is that Monique has simply walked away from the case after firing her attorneys so that none of them receive a dime, when Ray Jeffrey probably could have garnered her a settlement worth millions. We’ve asked TexasLawyer about that, and we’re talking to other experts, and we’ll add more to the story when we hear back.

We want to add one more observation which has probably occurred to others. We’ve read three books by Marty Rathbun, and this document sure sounds like him and his “inimical” style.

UPDATE: To our question about a possible settlement, this is how TexasLawyer responded…

I do not think there is a settlement, at least not anything formal. Settlement would have mooted the lawsuit, and there is no way that the church’s outside counsel would proceed with the appeal while knowing the case was moot. Doug Alexander is one of the finest appellate lawyers in Texas, and nobody has ever accused him of playing shady with the courts, at least so far as I am aware.

Now is it possible that Marty thinks he worked out some sort of informal settlement or understanding without any of the lawyers being involved? Maybe. But good luck enforcing something like that if it actually happened.

I have no idea whether the Rathbuns realize that Scientology could be awarded attorney fees and other expenses if the church were to win the anti-SLAPP motion. I assume the attorneys probably explained that after the anti-SLAPP motion was filed, but that was over two years ago and there were probably more pressing concerns for the Rathbuns at the time.

As a practical matter, I have a hard time seeing the church win its fees here. There is some authority saying that a plaintiff can’t escape from the TCPA’s fee-shifting provision just by filing for nonsuit to make the lawsuit go away. So maybe the church could argue this is similar to that situation. But they would be arguing it to the judge who denied the anti-SLAPP motion, and whose decision was upheld by the Austin Court of Appeals. So that seems highly unlikely to work.

If I were in Ray Jeffrey’s shoes, I use them to walk away from this trainwreck. Antagonizing unhappy clients is a bad idea unless they’re sitting on a large amount of cash that you have a solid claim to recover from them, and that seems not to be the situation here.

Here’s the document…

Monique Rathbun v. Scientology, request to lift stay

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on April 28, 2016 at 20:50

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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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