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Appeals court moves back hearing, and asks if Scientology arbitration is ‘neutral’

[Chrissie Bixler and the state supreme court that granted review of her suit against Danny Masterson]

There seems to have been a pretty interesting development in the Bixler v. Scientology lawsuit — the case that is getting an appeal thanks to the California Supreme Court.

The appeals court handling the review has moved back oral arguments scheduled for next week to November, and has asked both sides to answer a question it has about whether Scientology’s religious arbitration is “neutral.”

We’re tempted to think this is a very promising development for Danny Masterson’s accusers, who filed the lawsuit in 2019.

But you may remember that we’ve been here before.

At one point, the trial judge handling the lawsuit, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield, asked both sides to explain how Scientology’s religious arbitration fit a federal definition of “commerce,” which seemed like a serious challenge to the church and how it did business. But then Kleifield followed two previous courts and threw the case into limbo by granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration.


We’re talking about the harassment lawsuit that Chrissie Carnell-Bixler, her husband Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Bobette Riales, and two women going by the names Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 filed in June 2019 against Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson, the Church of Scientology, and its leader David Miscavige. The women alleged that they had been subjected to years of stalking and dirty tricks by Scientology since coming forward in 2016 to the LAPD with rape allegations against Masterson. (Masterson was charged criminally for raping Carnell-Bixler and the two Jane Does in June 2020. His trial is scheduled for February, and if he’s convicted he’s facing 45 years to life in prison.)

In the civil lawsuit, Scientology successfully argued that the former Scientologists (all of the plaintiffs but Riales) had signed contracts when they were with the church, obliging them to take any grievance to Scientology’s internal “religious arbitration” and not sue them in court. Judge Kleifield agreed, derailing the lawsuit. But rather than submit to arbitration, which they said was inherently one-sided and unfair, the plaintiffs sought a writ of mandate from an appeals court and then the state supreme court, which granted review. (Not coincidentally, we believe, the supreme court made that decision just days after shocking testimony by the women was heard in the unrelated criminal case.)

Both sides have submitted their arguments in the appeal, which is being handled by the 2nd Appellate Division, and oral arguments were scheduled for October 5. But last week, the court mailed both sides, saying they were going to delay things at least until November while asking both side to answer this question: Is Scientology’s internal arbitration neutral?

Last year, when we asked religious arbitration expert Michael Helfand, a Pepperdine professor, about this case and the Valerie Haney lawsuit, which also involves religious arbitration, he criticized the way judges were not looking at the scope of Scientology’s contracts, that a person would be held to them even years after leaving the church. But he also zeroed in on neutrality. Writing about the issue at Eugene Volokh’s blog, Helfand suggested that Scientology’s requirement about arbitrators should disqualify its motion. “Granting the Church of Scientology final say over which arbitrators satisfied the ‘in good standing’ requirement is particularly problematic,” he wrote.

That seems to be what the appeals court here is asking about. Scientology’s arbitration requires that all three arbitrators be Scientologists in good standing. But as the Garcias argued in their case (still on appeal more than a year after oral arguments) as well as the lawyers in the Haney and Bixler cases, no panel of Scientologists is going to give a fair hearing to ex-members who have been “declared suppressive” — in other words, declared enemies of the church.

Both sides have until Friday to turn in their responses to this question, and we’re itching to see what they say.


Now for a couple of updates on our previous stories. You may have heard that Karen Bass has officially announced that she’s running for Mayor of Los Angeles. Bass is giving up a powerful seat in Congress to make a run at the post, and she’s expected to be a frontrunner in a crowded field.

We remember her best, of course, for the rumors that emerged last year that Joe Biden was seriously considering her as a running mate in 2020. But then Breitbart dug up the 2010 speech that Bass had given at the grand opening of Scientology’s Ideal Org in Los Angeles.

Her campaign put out a statement, supposedly from Bass herself, that the Scientology event was in her district so she felt obliged to attend. But we then showed that wasn’t true: At the time, she was a California Assemblywoman, and the new Ideal Org was a couple of districts away.


Bass then had to admit that the statement was incorrect, and that she hadn’t actually written it herself, but that a staffer had put it together. It made her look ineffectual and evasive at exactly the wrong time. Biden ultimately selected Kamala Harris as his running mate and we don’t know how serious he really was about choosing Karen Bass.

This week an LA Times columnist wrote about Bass running for mayor and laid out reasons why Bass would want to leave her seat in Congress, reasons her track record made her ideal to be the city’s mayor, and also how the incident with Scientology would be a big challenge for her.

Just kidding about that last part. This is the LA Times we’re talking about, so of course Scientology wasn’t mentioned at all, even though it played a role in perhaps costing Bass a shot at one of the highest political posts in the land.

Will Karen Bass’s former coziness with David Miscavige become an issue in the mayoral campaign? We’ll be interested to see if the LA Times mentions it at all.


Another update: We revealed in April that Saturday Night Live had a Scientologist on its cast, the very talented Chloe Fineman, who was getting high marks for her impressions of Britney Spears and Drew Barrymore, and who seemed to be on an upwards trajectory.

That was confirmed this week when she made the leap from featured player to full-time cast member. The Hollywood Celebrity Centre must be buzzing.

Also, a couple of appearances by your proprietor…

And back in Perth!




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Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.


Source Code

“The history of Guk should be known to you. For a long time we had been scouting for the one-shot Clear, whereby a person walks in, you take a hypodermic syringe and shoot it in his arm, he goes up against the ceiling and comes down Clear. And we had been talking about this for some time as something feasible. Around 15 July 1950 a chemical engineer (the ex-director of research at the Bloch Chemical Company) told us about an atropine derivative that might be used.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 29, 1950


Avast, Ye Mateys

“BULL: Do not snort suddenly behind Peter Gilham. It is a tender subject. Not every day does one get plowed 15 feet down the street by a made 1,000 lb. Bull! The main damage was hurt feelings. A general good time was had by all.” — The Commodore, September 29, 1970



Overheard in the FreeZone

“The Freezone is going to have to be unified so that we can establish orgs where families can go within easy reach. I have been saying this all along. There are no youngsters to train as auditors and when all us in our 50s+ are gone, who will audit anybody?”


Past is Prologue

1996: The British TV show aired a segment on Scientology featuring a.r.s’ Martin Poulter. “Well what I’ve done is collect together the information that Scientology doesn’t want people to read. I’ve collected many first-hand accounts from ex-Scientologists, many documents from legal cases, several documents that were seized by the FBI when they raided Scientology headquarters and many of the postings from the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. It’s a big fight in cyberspace really. There are some pro-Scientology posters. Some who seem to be authorised by the church, and there’s many people who are protesting. Many ex-Scientologists who are speaking about their experiences. Many people who’ve joined in the debate because of concerns about civil rights.”


Random Howdy

“More people are killed by domestic pigs around the world annually than are killed by sharks.”



Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for November 10. Trial tentatively scheduled for February.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference October 7 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for November 19.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30, 2020 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Petition to US Supreme Court submitted on May 26. Scientology responded on June 25.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: California Supreme Court granted review on May 26 and asked the Second Appellate Division to direct Judge Steven Kleifield to show cause why he granted Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Oral arguments scheduled for November 2.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Dec 17: Feshbachs sign court judgment obliging them to pay entire $3.674 million tax debt, plus interest from Nov 19.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28, 2022.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Case appealed on Dec 23. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.

Concluded litigation:
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29. Bond revoked Sep 14. Nobbe dead, Sep 14.
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Leah Remini podcast: Attorney Ray Jeffrey on Marty Rathbun’s betrayal
[TWO years ago] Who had the biggest booth at the Black Caucus DC confab this month? Scientology, that’s who.
[THREE years ago] Inside Jesse Prince’s book about Scientology: Doing L. Ron Hubbard’s dirty work
[FOUR years ago] Turning hurricane chaos into gold? Scientology might learn something from L. Ron Hubbard
[FIVE years ago] ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ audiobook on sale, and we’re doing a Reddit AMA at noon
[SIX years ago] O Canada: We’re in Vancouver today, getting our British Columbia on. Let’s talk Scientology!
[SEVEN years ago] Jon Atack takes his presentation — ‘Scientology: The Cult of Greed’ — to Russia
[EIGHT years ago] Sunday Funnies: Nothing But Unstoppable Scientology Expansion in Every Direction!
[NINE years ago] Michael Lewis (Johnny’s Dad) Scheduled for Scientology Event Tonight
[TEN years ago] Scientology High School, Dating, and Super Powers! A Post-Countdown Roundup


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 2,438 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,943 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,463 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,483 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,374 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,681 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,549 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,323 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,653 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,127 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,443 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,009 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,928 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,096 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,677 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,938 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,975 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,689 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,214 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 569 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,744 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,295 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,444 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,764 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,619 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,738 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,094 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,397 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,503 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,901 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,777 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,360 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,855 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,109 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,218 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 29, 2021 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, 1995-2020 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2020), 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, 15 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


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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