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Judge to Garcias: Scientology can lie and cheat and there’s nothing I can do about it

[Judge James D. Whittemore]

Judge James D. Whittemore has ruled that Luis and Rocio Garcia will have to live with the kangaroo court Scientology put them through in the name of religious arbitration.

The Garcias, a California couple, sued the Church of Scientology in Whittemore’s Tampa federal court in 2013 over allegations that they had been defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations they had made to the church over the years. But Whittemore ruled in 2015 that his court couldn’t hear their case because they had signed contracts as Scientology members with promises that they would take grievances to Scientology’s internal arbitration.

Court testimony established that the contracts had been cynically designed to keep members from getting refunds, and that there actually were no procedures for arbitration established by the church, but Whittemore brushed aside those concerns and gave the Garcias no choice but to submit themselves to whatever arbitration rules the church came up with, and he put the lawsuit under a stay.

The arbitration took place in October. Of the $969,269.10 the Garcias were seeking in refunds, the panel awarded them $18,495.36. But the Garcias complained to Whittemore that the money amount wasn’t an issue — the arbitration itself had been a farce, they argued, and they filed a motion asking Whittemore to call for an evidentiary hearing to investigate the matter. The Garcias had evidence, they said, that both the Garcias and Whittemore had been lied to by Scientology, and most of the evidence that the Garcias brought to the procedure was tossed out by the church’s “International Justice Chief,” Mike Ellis, and wasn’t even put before the three-person arbitrating panel.

But Whittemore, in the order he issued this week, says none of that matters.

“The Garcias agreed to arbitrate in accordance with Scientology arbitration procedures including the selection of arbitrators in good standing with the Church, whose partiality was a given,” the judge writes.

Translation: Once the court forced the Garcias to accept Scientology’s internal arbitration, the fact that Scientology stacked the deck against them was to be expected — and the court can do nothing about it.

“It therefore follows that comments by the arbitrators demonstrating their commitment to the Church and agreement with its policies, which the Garcias interpret as prejudice, cannot serve as a basis for vacating the award,” Whittemore also ruled.

Translation: They’re Scientologists and you’re never going to get a fair shake from them — but the court is powerless.

As for Ellis, the IJC, tossing out exhibits the Garcias had brought to show the panel, Whittemore writes, “Scientology justice procedures specify that the IJC would determine the arbitration procedures…[and] consider the documentary evidence…and the grounds for disallowance (irrelevance, hearsay, Entheta, or Other) on the ‘Religious Arbitration Exhibit Form.'”

There you have it, folks. A branch of the US government, in an official order, saying that Scientology can fleece people under the excuse of “entheta,” Scientology jargon for “anti-Scientology material.”

David Miscavige himself could not have written a more favorable order to the Church of Scientology.

The Garcias were not allowed to present evidence that they had been defrauded when they donated for the Super Power project, and when the panelists were asked if they were entitled to a refund, they simply checked “no” on a form given to them by the IJC.

“That is a sufficient finding,” Whittemore says.

Ultimately, Whittemore concludes, the Garcias were asking him to make judgments on Scientology as a religion, and he says he can’t go there.

So that’s the upshot. Fraud has been recognized as a sacrament of Scientology, enshrined and protected by a federal court.

But what do we know. We’re no legal expert. But we do know one. And here’s attorney Scott Pilutik to give us his thoughts on the order…

Judge Whittemore’s order is something of a disgrace but also not surprising, at least at this point. Once the judge accepted the premise that a Scientology arbitration hearing can be fair and impartial where the parties are Scientology and an ex-member even against that ex-member’s quite legitimate protestations, it would have been next to impossible for him to find that it wasn’t fair and impartial, no matter the evidence, because he’d already disregarded the Garcia’s concerns as invalid.

Mandatory arbitration, generally speaking, stacks the deck against plaintiffs, so it’s a cold day in hell when a plaintiff, seeking to escape a mandatory arbitration clause, loses and then prevails on the resulting arbitration. Religious arbitration is even worse for plaintiffs because the religious body can institute rules that the court can’t even interpret without violating the First Amendment.

This case was lost, however many years ago, when Judge Whittemore simply blew right past the manifestly obvious fact that Scientology just made up an arbitration procedure, only because the Garcias put them on the spot. What the Garcias were then subjected to was some hash of Scientologese and Calvinball that it had never used before.

And then Whittemore even helped set the parameters of this newfound religious arbitration despite having already decided that he couldn’t rule on the underlying merits out of First Amendment concerns. That’s like saying you can’t stay and eat and then wind up cooking the meal yourself. I think Whittemore’s activities here may render this vulnerable to appeal.

But this case went off the rails even earlier than that, when the judge agreed with Scientology’s fiction that the dispute was religious in nature. Either Scientology did or didn’t make false claims in emails to the Garcias inducing their donations. Deciding that question requires neither the red nor green volumes because it’s the same dispute brought in non-secular arenas.

Ultimately the Garcias were subjected to a rigged game with a predetermined outcome, and that statement is just as true for the arbitration as it was for their treatment by the court. In (mild) defense of Judge Whittemore, his declining to permit religious arbitration would be going against the wind. Judges love arbitration because it clears their dockets and there have been a load of pro-arbitration cases even since the Garcias brought their complaint. Add the pro (so-called) religious freedom trend to the mix and the wind is a gale.

 
We’ll let you know if the Garcias decide to appeal. For now, here’s Whittemore’s ruling…

 

Garcia v. Scientology: Order denying Garcia motion by Tony Ortega on Scribd

 
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Shelton interviews Geoff Levin, part two

Says Chris: “This is part two of my conversation with former Scientologist Geoff Levin. In this part, we talk more about what happened when he left the Sea Org after a short stint in the RPF under L. Ron Hubbard, why he kept going in Scientology and how that led to the famous Dianetics ad campaign in the 1980s under the supervision of none other than Jefferson Hawkins.”

 

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,180 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,783 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 326 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 214 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,389 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,163 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,937 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,283 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,849 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,517 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,777 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,817 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,529 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,055 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,144 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,284 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,604 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,579 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 935 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,237 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,343 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,746 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,618 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,200 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,705 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,949 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,058 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 19, 2018 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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news

 

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