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The Garcias won’t go down without a fight: Filing appeal of Scientology’s ‘arbitration’ farce

 
The Garcias aren’t letting well enough alone. More than five years after they first filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, and after three years wrestling against a ruling by Tampa federal Judge James Whittemore that forced them into Scientology’s internal arbitration, Luis and Rocio Garcia have filed a notice that they are appealing Whittemore’s latest ruling that they would have to live with the results of that arbitration.

We have to admit we were taken somewhat by surprise by this news. The Garcias have already been fighting against an uncooperative court for years, and Whittemore’s latest ruling was a punch to the gut. Appealing it was not an automatic decision — the Garcias can look forward to a year or more of additional court filings and broadsides from Scientology without a guarantee that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will see things differently than Whittemore did.

From the beginning of their legal odyssey, the Garcias argued that they were lied to and defrauded by Scientology when the church hit them up for more than a million dollars of donations over their years as members. They were convinced, for example, to “pay for” an expensive cross on top of the Flag Building in Clearwater, but then learned that other couples had been hit up to pay for the same thing.

But the Garcias never got to present that evidence in court. Judge Whittemore decided that because the Garcias had signed membership contracts promising to take all grievances to internal arbitration, the California couple was required to do so. Whittemore explained that because Scientology was a church, he couldn’t insert himself into that contractual disagreement without violating Scientology’s First Amendment religious rights.

The Garcias presented testimony by former top Scientology officials Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun that the membership contracts had been purposely written to confound Scientologists from getting refunds, and that there was no actual “arbitration” procedure in the church — and the church admitted in court that it had never, in fact, performed an arbitration in its 60-year history.

Scientology might call itself a church, but when it set up sham contracts to entrap members, held out an arbitration scheme that didn’t actually exist, and committed fraudulent means of taking money from people like the Garcias, why should the First Amendment keep a court from looking into those allegations? But Whittemore was adamant, and he put the lawsuit on hold as he directed the Garcias to submit themselves to the arbitration process. And after that process ended up in an impasse, Whittemore took charge of it and personally selected a board of three arbitrators.

The Garcias complained that the two-day arbitration hearing in Los Angeles last October was a kangaroo court, and they told Whittemore that he’d been lied to about how it would go down. But once again Whittemore refused to hear their evidence, and instead ordered them to abide by the arbitration’s result. (The arbitrators decided to refund $18,000 of the million-plus the Garcias were asking for. The Garcias refused the payment.)

Attorney Scott Pilutik earlier told us that if Whittemore’s decision was vulnerable to appeal, it was because the judge had inserted himself so directly in the arbitration itself, finding the arbitrators after the two sides were unable to agree on anything…

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.

Will the Eleventh Circuit see it that way? We’ll have considerable time to find out.

 
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Scientology’s history in Colombia

Jeffrey Augustine talks with former Scientologist Adrian Venegas about growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, working on staff at the Scientology org there, seeing the first attempts by the church to reach out to the nation’s military in the 1990s, and how a comedian named Andrés López has been Scientology’s major conduit in the country in recent years. It’s fascinating stuff as the scandal in Colombia rolls on.

 

 
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MEANWHILE, AT FACEBOOK…

 

 
Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,209 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,812 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 355 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 243 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,418 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,192 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,966 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,312 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,878 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,546 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,806 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,846 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,558 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,084 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,173 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,313 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,633 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,489 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,608 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 964 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,266 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,372 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,775 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,647 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,229 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,734 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,978 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,087 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 17, 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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