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What are Valerie Haney’s options after Scientology won its arbitration motion?

[Valerie Haney]

We’re still reeling after Thursday’s court hearing that dealt such a blow to Valerie Haney’s lawsuit. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Burdge Jr. granted the motions submitted by two of Scientology’s entities to compel the case into “religious arbitration,” and stayed the lawsuit itself.

At the end of the ten-minute hearing, after treating the matter like a simple contract dispute, Judge Burge asked the two sides to come back and report how the arbitration went, in April 2021.

As far as he’s concerned, this lawsuit is over.

But is it? After we relayed Jeffrey Augustine’s live report from the courtroom Thursday that Burdge had found for Scientology, we were inundated by responses from readers asking whether Valerie could and would appeal the ruling.

It turns out there’s not a simple answer to that question, but we’re going to explain it as plainly as we can after consulting with legal experts who understand California law very well.

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An order to compel arbitration, which Judge Burdge issued yesterday, is an “interlocutory” order and not the final order wrapping up a lawsuit. Our experts tell us that Valerie has only two ways to appeal this ruling.

First, she can submit to Scientology’s ‘religious arbitration,’ and after the panel gives its result, reports it to the judge, and the judge then confirms that result to culminate the lawsuit, then she can appeal that result to a higher court, which the higher court would be obliged to consider.

(This is the path that Luis and Rocio Garcia took in the only other lawsuit against Scientology that resulted in a granted arbitration motion. They are currently waiting for a result to their appeal from the federal Eleventh Circuit.)

Her second option is to petition for a writ of mandamus to the state Court of Appeal. Unlike an appeal, the Court of Appeal would not be under an obligation to consider her petition for a writ, and in fact the vast majority of such petitions are denied with a single word.

However, if a petition for a writ is compelling enough — and there certainly are some compelling elements in this case and in the judge’s handling of it — she might have a shot at getting her petition considered. Even then, however, there are no guarantees. She would get a hearing, and Scientology would get the chance to respond before the court made a ruling.

So, those are her two choices: Be humiliated in a kangaroo court set up by the organization that abused her (and without representation by an attorney) with the aim of appealing afterwards, an appeal that a higher court would be obliged to consider, or take a long shot at a writ that, in most cases the court won’t consider at all.

We reached out to Brian Kent, the lead attorney of the “dream team” that filed Valerie’s lawsuit and two others that got a lot of media attention last summer, including one on behalf of four women and one man who say they were harassed after the women came forward with rape allegations against Scientologist actor Danny Masterson. Four of those five plaintiffs are also facing motions to compel arbitration — on March 27, which is coming up fast — and we wondered how the team might adjust their strategy to avoid another result like Valerie’s. If we hear from Kent, we’ll let you know.

 

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Last week, speaking about the Masterson lawsuit, Pepperdine University professor Michael Helfand, an expert in religious arbitration, pointed out that Scientology’s position was actually vulnerable because it was seeking such a huge scope for its contracts. For example, something a Scientologist signed years ago as a church member would still prevent them from going to court long after they had left the church.

When we asked him about Thursday’s court hearing, he said that it looked to him like Valerie’s team had not made this argument.

“From the court’s opinion, it does not appear that the plaintiff challenged whether the scope of the arbitration agreements covered the claims in the lawsuit. As a result, it isn’t surprising that the court did not pursue my argument along those lines,” he said.

But in Valerie’s opposition to the arbitration, a document her attorneys filed on January 15, they did criticize the scope of Scientology’s arbitration claim, didn’t they?

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“They did challenge the scope, but not on the specifics. That is, they argued that the scope of the arbitration provision was too broad. But they did not argue that the underlying lawsuits were not within the scope of the provision in the way I attempted to do so in my blog post. I’m not sure why — maybe there are facts that I’ve been insufficiently attentive to.”

He says Valerie’s team also didn’t argue another point that he thinks should make Scientology’s arbitration a hard sell in court: That Scientology requires the three arbitrators to be members of the church in good standing. This clearly stacks the deck against former members seeking a fair hearing.

“One hopes on appeal — assuming the plaintiffs pursue that route — that the court might consider some of the more challenging questions of whether it can actually enforce an arbitrator qualification clause that has a religious component to it.”

In fact that is precisely one of the points that Luis and Rocio Garcia are pursuing in their appeal.

After a Tampa federal judge agreed with Scientology and stayed their lawsuit, the Garcias agonized over whether to go through with the ‘religious arbitration,’ which Scientology had admitted it had never actually done in its 60-plus year history. Did the Garcias really want to be the first? But they did go through with it — it took more than a year simply to seat the three arbitrators, if you remember — and after the experience they went back to the federal court and complained about how it had been handled and asked the judge to disregard the results and restore their lawsuit. But Judge James Whittemore accepted the arbitration result (the panel had awarded the Garcias, who were asking for hundreds of thousands in damages, only $18,000), and ended the lawsuit. At that point the Garcias were finally free to appeal, and two years later we’re waiting for a decision on that appeal from the Eleventh Circuit.

 

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Leading up to yesterday’s hearing, we had compared the Haney and Bixler lawsuits to cases we’ve watched in the past, including the Garcia fraud suit, the Monique Rathbun harassment case, the Marc and Claire Headley lawsuit, and the Laura DeCrescenzo saga. But after yesterday’s hearing, we’re starting to realize that there’s another lawsuit that might have provided a more telling preview to how things have turned out for Valerie Haney, and that’s the case of Vance Woodward.

Vance was an odd animal, a young attorney with a killer prose style who had written a thoroughly eye-opening and remarkable self-published book, “Addicted to Scientology: Overcoming the Ups & Downs of Scientoloholism.” (He later removed it from circulation.)

The book, and the website he put up to promote it, contained some of the smartest, funniest, and most revealing ways of describing the Scientology experience that we’d ever seen. We were grateful when Vance then agreed to team up with us to blog L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics from cover to cover.

Vance also planned to sue, telling us he had left Scientology with about $200,000 on account and was being refused a refund. With his knowledge of Scientology and his position as a lawyer, we thought he was in a unique position to take on the church.

But then, when we saw the complaint he filed in 2014, we were stunned. Rather than focus on the facts of his attempt to get a refund, his lawsuit was a shotgun blast at the entirety of Scientology from its founding. Although he had a solid case with a narrow scope, he went for the root of Scientology’s tree, hoping to chop it down by having the court examine the organization as a whole.

It was a bad decision. Scientology easily won an anti-SLAPP motion to kill the lawsuit before it really got a chance to get going, and in the process won an award of $90,000 in attorneys fees. It was upheld on appeal.

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In Valerie’s case, she was being stalked and slandered, she said, after she had managed to escape from Scientology — and, more to the point, while she was no longer working under one of its stifling contracts. However, her lawsuit wasn’t narrowly focused on that. Instead, in some ways it resembled Woodward’s as it tried to indict Scientology as a whole, giving a history of the Sea Org, describing the nature of auditing, and alleging the trafficking of children, none of which were specifically related to the harassment Valerie was going through as a result of telling her story on the Leah Remini television show. The lawsuit also described Valerie’s experience as a Sea Org member, and that she had to hide in the trunk of a car to escape Int Base.

At the hearing Thursday, during Judge Burdge’s perfunctory review of the lawsuit, one of the things he brought up was the material about her Int Base experience, which he didn’t think was relevant to her complaints about being held to a contract today. Valerie’s attorney, Bobby Thompson, responded that this material was just in the complaint only for the judge’s “background.”

At that point, Scientology’s attorneys pounced, pointing out to the judge that the lawsuit’s first cause of action was kidnapping — Valerie’s claim that she had been held against her will on the base — and not merely “background.”

It was not a good moment for Valerie’s side, observers who were in the courtroom tell us.

Valerie’s experiences as a Sea Org worker are certainly compelling, and seemed to make the chance of her immediate boss, David Miscavige, being deposed seem like a tantalizing possibility. But Judge Burdge seemed to think it was a mistake for the lawsuit to include causes of action regarding Valerie’s time as an employee and her time since she’s left.

Should the lawsuit have been focused only on the Fair Game campaign she’s gone through since she left? Did it, like Vance Woodward’s lawsuit, try too hard to be a shotgun blast at the entirety of Scientology and its leader?

We hate to second-guess it, but Judge Burdge certainly seemed to zero in on that issue with the complaint, when he ignored so many other things.

 
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Source Code

“I had the officers of six other ships in my squadron come aboard, and only one of them stood alongside of me, and the other five were trying to convince me that if I kept this up I was going to get everybody killed. I said, ‘Kept what up?’ ‘You keep attacking these submarines.’ I said, ‘What are we supposed to be doing, gentlemen?’ And they said, ‘Well, every time a submarine shows up, you needn’t signal attack! It’s stupid! You’re going to get somebody hurt!’ I proved to them tactically that if you did not suddenly attack a submarine and if you did retire behind the convoy every time one showed up, you’re going to get yourself killed for sure — for sure! This was not in their level of agreement. They never did get it.” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 1, 1957

 
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Overheard in the FreeZone

“I got a private message from someone who was from Ron’s Org. He claims he has done superstatic rundown at Ron’s org. I asked him if a being went completely out of the physical universe to a complete void and re-entered the physical universe in another time then what would that be. He said that is superstatic rundown. Able to leave this physical universe and enter into any other time period. It happened to me when the class 8 auditor was doing integrity processing on me and asked me a question that would take me into a past life. The past life of this orb [thetan with a location] I’m running is blank, because this orb was created new right out of the source, like inelia Benz, but the meter was reading an incident on one of my timelines. I had to go out of this physical universe to source and re-enter in my other timelines track to erase the incident.”

 
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Random Howdy

“I still keep coming back to the fact that the mind control/brainwashing/undue influence only worked on a very small percentage of those exposed to it. I think that the focus should be on what the 5 percent (or thereabouts) of the exposed population who joined groups like Scientology, the NSDAP or the Khmer Rouge have in common.”

 
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Start making your plans…

 
Head over to the convention website and meet us in St. Louis!

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] NFL great Marshall Faulk plugs Scientology front group on Fox News
[TWO years ago] Viewers react to Tampa NBC affiliate saying Scientology is sponsoring Winter Olympics
[THREE years ago] The odd and slightly troubling thing Elon Musk and L. Ron Hubbard have in common
[FOUR years ago] MONIQUE RATHBUN FIRES HER ENTIRE LEGAL TEAM, REPORTEDLY SEEKS SETTLEMENT
[FIVE years ago] About that Scientology ad you saw on TV before and during the Super Bowl
[SIX years ago] Jon Atack takes apart the Scientology E-meter
[SEVEN years ago] More Nutty Scientology Talk, Tom Cruise Style: His Former Assistant’s Graduation Ceremony!
[EIGHT years ago] The 5 Worst Things Judges Have Said About Scientology

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,835 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,339 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,859 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 879 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 770 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,077 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,945 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,719 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,493 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,839 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,405 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,324 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,492 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,073 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,334 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,372 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,085 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,610 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,137 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,700 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,840 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,160 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,015 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,135 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,490 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,793 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,899 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,301 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,173 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,756 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,251 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,505 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,614 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on February 1, 2020 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 14 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

 

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