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Forced-abortion lawsuit has a new judge as Scientology appeals ruling on religious grounds

Laura_DeCrescenzo_SeaOrg

[Laura DeCrescenzo in the Sea Org, circa 1996]

Laura DeCrescenzo’s seven-year forced abortion lawsuit against the Church of Scientology now has a new judge, and a new appeal submitted by the defendant.

You’ll remember that we were dealing with a bit of a shock in the case recently: After denying Scientology’s most recent motion for summary judgment and clearing away the path to a trial, Judge John P. Doyle surprised everyone by announcing that he had cousins who were dedicated Scientologists. Doyle said this had no effect on his decision to deny Scientology’s motion, but it made him vulnerable to a conflict if any of his family members were called as witnesses.

Scientology then claimed that it did, in fact, plan to call one or more of his cousins as witnesses if the trial were to happen, and Doyle had no choice but to disqualify himself.

Now, the Los Angeles Superior Court has assigned Judge Samantha Jessner to the case, and Scientology has appealed Judge Doyle’s ruling, not only on its merits, but also because, the church argues, Judge Doyle should have disqualified himself before making it. We have the document for you, and we look forward to your thoughts on it.

First, as to Judge Jessner. We asked attorney Scott Pilutik, who has been watching this case closely since it was filed, for his thoughts on her record. He said that he liked what he saw, and sent over this description of her that he found online:

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JudgeSamanthaJessner

Judge Jessner was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2007 and currently sits in Dept. 93 in a Personal Injury hub court located in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Judge Jessner previously was an Assistant Supervising Judge in the Criminal Division, specifically, she was Supervising Judge of the Mental Health courthouse. She has also been assigned to criminal trial courts. Prior to joining the court, she was an Assistant United States Attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) for approximately 11 years. Judge Jessner started her legal career as a litigation associate with the Los Angeles Office of Sheppard Mullin. In between two tenures at the United States Attorney’s Office, she was in-house counsel for The Boeing Company and an Assistant Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police commission. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law.

 
Meanwhile, Scientology has submitted a petition for a writ of mandate to California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, asking that the court review Judge Doyle’s decision to deny its motion for summary judgment in April. Laura’s lawsuit had survived a previous motion for summary judgment that was denied in 2013. This time, Scientology based its motion on First Amendment religious rights, arguing that it can treat its Sea Org workers however it wants without interference of a civil court because its workers are “ministers” and are doing religious work.

But Laura’s lawyers successfully pointed out that Laura was only 12 years old when she signed her billion-year Sea Org contract, and was subjected to abuse that had nothing to do with a “religious” context. At the hearing in April, Judge Doyle knocked down each of the church’s arguments and then talked about scheduling a trial in 2017.

But now, Scientology argues that not only was Judge Doyle in error to dismiss the church’s claims about religious rights, but his subsequent disqualification for having Scientologist family members should nullify his ruling anyway. Again, we asked Scott Pilutik for his thoughts.

The issue is whether Judge Doyle’s prior ruling is rendered invalid by his subsequent disqualification. Scientology is pointing to law that suggests that it is because the facts that caused the disqualification (the family relationship) pre-existed the ruling they want vacated. Compared to, say, a recusal due to personal animus that emerged during the trial — that would be a fact that didn’t pre-exist any earlier rulings.

My sense is that there might be case law that shared the key distinction here, where the basis for the supposed bias is so disconnected from the earlier ruling. Doyle’s cousin’s potential testimony is extremely removed from the issue that was before Doyle when he denied Scientology’s motion, which had very little to do with the underlying facts of the case.

The problem is, it’s easier for courts to simply adhere to hard and fast rules regarding recusals because predictability comes with certainty. On the other hand, should Scientology’s writ succeed, a lot of time and money flies out the window in a case that’s already too many years old. Obviously that’s more a feature than a bug for Scientology. I expect Laura’s attorneys to push back hard on this, and argue that Doyle’s late disclosure is harmless error and in the interest of justice his prior rulings should not be set aside.

As always, we look forward to your thoughts on this latest development. Here’s the document…

DeCrescenzo v. Scientology: Petition for Writ of Mandate

 
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FreedomJuneJuly16Sugg goes after Merchants of Chaos

A new issue of Scientology’s propaganda magazine Freedom is out, and the June/July edition features an essay by its executive editor, John Sugg, who is a favorite around here. Sugg complains that Americans are distracted by spooky and nonsensical conspiracy theories (and how!), but he ends up blaming “merchants of chaos,” journalists, for the problem.

Speaking of journalists, we hear occasionally from Sugg’s former colleagues, who are stunned to find out that the once formidable editor has gone to work for the Church of Scientology. Sugg himself told us recently that he didn’t do so out of economic necessity, but instead because he was genuinely intrigued to be working with the other fine reporters at Freedom. It also turned out that Sugg has been taking Scientology courses, but he hasn’t said much about it, or L. Ron Hubbard, in his own writings. Until now.

We thought Sugg’s former fans, when he was a figure of some note in the Tampa area for his work at The Weekly Planet, might find this passage fun…

Many years ago, a wise man, L. Ron Hubbard, thought about fabricated conspiracy theories that are intended to manipulate and depress society. He characterized the purveyors of such trash as “merchants of chaos.” “They deal in confusion and upset,” Mr. Hubbard wrote. “Their daily bread is made by creating chaos. If chaos were to lessen, so would their incomes.” Those “merchants” weren’t all bartering conspiracies, but the finely crafted conspiracy was always part of their arsenal.

Scientology’s founder identified many who fit the role of merchants of chaos, but of particular note are the media, politicians and militarists. “It is to their interest to make the environment seem as threatening as possible, for only then can they profit,” he wrote in 1963—just a month after JFK’s assassination, a time when every merchant of chaos was clamoring to foist every conceivable scare story on the world.

“We speak loosely of ‘good press,’” Mr. Hubbard mused. “Is there any such thing today? Look over a newspaper. Is there anything good on the front page? Rather there is murder and sudden death, disagreement and catastrophe. And even that, bad as it is, is sensationalized to make it seem worse.

“This is the coldblooded manufacture of ‘a dangerous environment.’”

The decades haven’t blunted Mr. Hubbard’s words. But although the term “conspiracy theory” wasn’t the popular lingo five decades ago, it was and is a favorite tool of merchants of chaos.

Isn’t that precious?

 
SuggHubbard

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

Just yesterday we were talking about Sea Org veteran Wick Allcock, and here he turned up in a photo posted by the Tampa org. Actual caption: “scientologytampa: Last night adorableness!!!!!! Loly and her daughter Adrianna signed up for Tampa staff!!!! Loly was staff for 16 years and was an amazing Supervisor, and just went CLEAR at Flag!!! And her daughter is ready to join as soon as she’s old enough!”

 
WickAllcockTampa

 
Scientology’s United for Human Rights is supporting candidate Eliseo Santana, who is running for the Pinellas County School Board. Thanks, Legoland.

 
SciEliseo

 
Did someone leave a pacakge of unopened Basics outside the Evanston mission or something?

 
SciChicago

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 24, 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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