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Judge Doyle: I have Scientologists in the family, but I can be impartial in forced-abortion case

John_Doyle

 
A surprising new document showed up in the court file of Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit in Los Angeles. Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle has submitted a detailed disclosure about his ties to family members who are Scientologists. They are his cousins, and in the six-page document Doyle details his interaction with them, which has been sparse. But those interactions do include a visit to East Grinstead, England, where Doyle says he had a tour and lunch at Saint Hill Manor, Scientology’s UK headquarters and the former home of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

The disclosure comes just weeks after Doyle had denied the Church of Scientology’s most recent attempt to get DeCrescenzo’s seven-year lawsuit thrown out with a motion for summary judgment. Laura survived a previous motion for summary judgment in 2013, and this time Scientology had asked Doyle to kill the lawsuit as a violation of its religious rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. But Doyle sided with DeCrescenzo, saying that the church’s motion had been a longshot to begin with. (We were present, reporting live from the courtroom that day.)

That decision paved the way for an actual trial, and Judge Doyle indicated that he might set a date for one about a year from now. In the meantime, Scientology’s attorneys indicated that they would be seeking a writ of mandamus with an appeals court to try and have Doyle’s decision overturned. DeCrescenzo’s attorney, John Blumberg, told us after the hearing that he expected Scientology to petition all the way to US Supreme Court on the summary judgment decision, which could push things back further.

And now, Judge Doyle has added his potentially disruptive disclosure, admitting that he has family in the church. Namely, his first cousin Greg Smith, who is a Class IX auditor at Saint Hill Manor and a Sea Org member, our sources tell us.

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Doyle says that his interactions with Smith have been limited, but they do include a visit to England in 1993: “…for an afternoon and evening at Scientology’s East Grinstead, England facility, where we had lunch at the dining hall there and later dinner at a Chinese restaurant in East Grinstead…I recall a limited walk around the facility with my wife and three very young children. I do not recall any discussion about Scientology at that time except in passing, or on any other occasion.”

During that visit, Doyle met Greg Smith’s son, Hans, who is a Sea Org member — Hans shows up in a video we’ve posted in the past, and our sources tell that Hans was a member of the Commodore’s Messenger Organization Int Extension Unit (CMO IXU). In other words, Doyle’s cousins are very involved, longtime Scientologists. But Doyle says that those connections will not have an impact on his ability to handle the case, and did not have an impact on his decision to deny Scientology’s motion: “The family relationships here did not impact the Court’s determination of defendants’ summary judgment/adjudication motion. I can be fair and impartial in this matter. If, however, one of these family members might turn up as a witness in this case, that of course would present an untenable position.”

Doyle seems to be suggesting that the quickest way for Scientology to get him off the case might be to find a way to call one of the Smiths as a witness. But Laura’s side might also have its reasons to ask for Doyle to recuse himself.

As young as 6 years old, Laura began volunteering for the Church of Scientology, which her parents belonged to. In fact, at one point as a small child she even was part of a group of Scientologists who picketed the building that contain’s Doyle’s courtroom. At 9 years old, Laura started working on staff at a Scientology facility, and at 12 she joined the Sea Org, a grueling post that requires total dedication as well as signing a billion-year contract. At 12, she was working 98-hour weeks for pennies an hour. At 13, she was moved to the adult schedule, 112 hours a week. She alleges that she was abused as a Sea Org worker, particularly when she was 17 and was, she says, forced to have an abortion. (Children are not allowed for Sea Org workers.) She spent several of her last years in the Sea Org in its prison program, the RPF, and finally escaped it by drinking bleach in a bid to convince her captors that she was suicidal.

Scott Pilutik, our webmaster and attorney, has been following the DeCrescenzo lawsuit closely since it was filed. He tells us he isn’t sure that DeCrescenzo would have enough legal cause to get Judge Doyle recused, if she wanted to.

“Replace Scientology with any other religion and it’s no issue at all,” Pilutik points out. According to the California code of judicial ethics, “A judge shall not allow family, social, political, or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment, nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that any individual is in a special position to influence the judge.”

Doyle’s connection is not a close one, and it might be difficult to make the case that he won’t rule impartially, Pilutik adds. “He did this by the numbers, disclosing this with such a degree of specificity.”

If Laura wanted to make the argument to have Doyle off the case, she might point out that in Scientology, there’s a special situation that could cause a problem in the family — disconnection. “Would his cousins be considered PTS to the judge, should he rule adversely? He might need to recuse himself because his very presence threatens his family’s status in the church. If there’s a possibility his cousins will have to disconnect from him if he rules against the church, could that personal pressure make for the appearance of impropriety?” Pilutik asks.

We asked former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder for his thoughts on the disclosure by Doyle.

“Though I have not been in the courtroom and have no information about the Judge, if I were Laura’s lawyers I would be very wary about moving to recuse him,” Rinder says. “He seemed to do a good job on the summary judgment motion. He seems concerned that his integrity is not compromised. He may even tend to try to prove he is not biased for Scientology in any way in how he proceeds with the case. I think it is more likely that Scientology will try to add Hans Smith as a witness and force the issue of recusal as another delaying tactic. But these are really thoughts from the peanut gallery.”

We’ve asked for a comment from Laura’s attorneys to see what they think of the disclosure and whether they’ll move for recusal.

If they do, it would be yet another delay in a case which has had many of them, including numerous previous judge changes. Originally, the case was filed in 2009 in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Sohigian, who initially dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that it had been filed too late. But an appeals court revived the case, asking Sohigian to reconsider. In 2013, Sohigian denied a motion for summary judgment by Scientology in dramatic fashion, and seemed impressed by DeCrescenzo’s evidence supporting her claims. But then Sohigian retired, and the case went through numerous judges before landing in the courtroom of Doyle earlier this year.

In the disclosure, Doyle says that he had not seen any references to his family in the massive record of Laura’s lawsuit, but after his ruling last month, he decided that he should come forward with information about his cousins “in the interest of caution.”

Thanks for letting us know, judge! Here’s the document itself. We look forward to your comments on it…

 

DeCrescenzo v. Scientology: Judge Doyle Disclosure

 
UPDATE: The Greg Smith at Mace-Kingsley in Clearwater is apparently not the Greg Smith at Saint Hill. We’re still looking for a photo of him.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 17, 2016 at 07:20

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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