Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Judge in labor trafficking lawsuit refuses relief for ex-Scientology trio: Bad omen?

[Judge Thomas Barber. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM]

Is it nailbiting time in the Baxter v Scientology lawsuit?

We’ve been paying very close attention to the new labor trafficking lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in Tampa ever since it was filed on April 28, and no wonder. It’s a lawsuit with stunning allegations of child abuse and slave-like labor that’s generated a lot of attention, with major write-ups by Tracey McManus at the Tampa Bay Times, Ben Schneiders at the Sydney Morning Herald, and also at the Daily Beast.

But from the beginning of our coverage, we’ve pointed out that the lawsuit, while its allegations are vividly detailed, has some legal challenges that are unrelated to the specific allegations being made about abuse in the Sea Org aboard Scientology’s cruise ship, the Freewinds.

The Scientology defendants have naturally pounced on some of those challenges facing the lawsuit, such as questions about the length of time that has passed since the three plaintiffs, Valeska Paris and a married couple, Gawain and Laura Baxter, have been in the church. And also that their allegations largely took place in international waters, which Scientology says takes them out of the jurisdiction of a Tampa federal courthouse. But perhaps the biggest challenge facing the lawsuit is that Scientology is once again asking a judge to deny these former Scientologists the right to trial because they signed contracts while they were in the Sea Org that oblige them, the church says, to take any grievances to Scientology’s internal brand of “religious arbitration.”

We have noted that not only has Scientology had success with this strategy in several previous lawsuits, but that their most decisive victory, against Luis and Rocio Garcia in their 2013 lawsuit, took place in the exact same Tampa courtroom just a few years ago, and that the ruling to force them into arbitration was upheld by the federal Eleventh Circuit.


So it wasn’t a surprise at all that Scientology responded to the Baxter case by filing, in July, multiple motions to force the case into arbitration. On August 2, Valeska and the Baxters were due to respond to those motions, but instead they informed Judge Thomas Barber that they were going to file an amended complaint. They did so, expanding on their original 90-page complaint to 120 pages. We highlighted the differences, which included complaints about Scientology leader David Miscavige evading service, and even more detail on the horrific things that Valeska and the Baxters endured, including new allegations that they have suffered harassment since filing the lawsuit in April.

Scientology refiled their motions to compel arbitration and motions to dismiss on August 23, which were largely the same as the ones they filed in July. Responses to those motions from the plaintiffs are due on September 13.

It’s pointless to speculate how Judge Barber is going to rule on the arbitration issue at this point, but we thought we would bring up a couple of his recent decisions which, as we say, may set Scientology watchers on edge a bit.

First, the plaintiffs asked for more time to serve David Miscavige, who has so far evaded service, and wanted until October 26 to find him. Judge Barber gave them only until September 12. (The plaintiffs have now submitted a motion with more examples of their process servers running into uncooperative Scientology security guards, and they’ve asked the court to serve Miscavige through the Florida Secretary of State.)

And on Friday, the plaintiffs asked Judge Barber for some relief: Scientology’s five institutional defendants have filed five separate motions to compel arbitration as well as motions to dismiss, and responding to all five separately is going to end up being a big pile of paper. Could the plaintiffs simply answer them all in one document?

All five Defendants move to compel arbitration; Defendants RTC, CSI and IASA move to dismiss the FAC for lack of personal jurisdiction; and all five Defendants move to dismiss the FAC pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Defendants’ five memoranda total 128 pages with a combined 14 primary argument headings (excluding introductions and conclusions) and 60 subheadings. In support of their various motions, each Defendant’s submission raises numerous arguments and also joins and incorporates by reference other Defendants’ arguments. Responding to this stew brief-by-brief, as the Local Rules may contemplate, will achieve the opposite of judicial economy….Rather than add to the confusion by submitting multiple separate memoranda of law that will necessarily cross-reference both one another and the arguments scattered across Defendants’ five submissions, Plaintiffs request leave to file a consolidated response that will not exceed the aggregate 100 pages permitted under the Local Rules, including a Table of Contents and a Table of Authorities. This will enable Plaintiffs to present an organized and coherent response to this dizzying array of motions and arguments, without requiring the Court to read a single page more than the limit set in the Local Rules.

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Judge Barber’s answer: No.

“Plaintiffs are directed to file a separate response to each pending motion that does not exceed the page limitations set out in the Local Rules,” he announced.

Well, maybe we better not read too much into this. Judge Barber could simply be a stickler for the rules and he could still find for Valeska and the Baxters and spurn Scientology’s arbitration motions. And we can even see this as a positive development: If Judge Barber is going to deny Scientology’s motions, he may be avoiding anything the church could appeal, including giving the plaintiffs the shortcut of a consolidated response. We of course don’t know either way.

But yeah, it’s beginning to feel like a nailbiter.


Technology Cocktail


“The touch assist done as described elsewhere brings the patient’s attention to injured or affected body areas. When attention is withdrawn from them, so is circulation, nerve flows and energy which for one thing limits nutrition to the area and for another prevents the drain of waste products. Some ancient healers attributed remarkable flows and qualities to the “laying on of hands”. Probably the workable element in this was simply heightening awareness of the affected area and restoring the physical communication factors.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1969


Now available: Bonus for our supporters

Episode 11 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers, and Michelle “Emma” Ryan charmed us with her stories of running ESMB, the forum that provided such a great landing place for people fleeing Scientology, 2007-2019. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 through 10 available to everyone, with such guests as Jefferson Hawkins, Patty Moher, Geoff Levin, Pete Griffiths, Sunny Pereira, Bruce Hines, Jeffrey Augustine, and Claire Headley. Go here to get the episodes!


Coming Wednesday

Our limited podcast series on the Sirens Media TV show about Scientology that never aired is coming to its conclusion Wednesday, and with the result we were hoping for.

Jamie DeWolf, the dynamic performer (and great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard) who was meant to be the show’s presenter, is talking about the Sirens series for the first time anywhere.

You’re going to want to buckle in for this one.




Source Code

“I found out very early I could bully people into having sonic, visio, and everything else. I don’t know what I was doing. I guess I was handling their engrams for them and I guess cutting down their self determinism; maybe turning them back into GEs. I swear, I look back on it, I might occasionally have turned off a thetan, put him sound asleep and turned the GE full on and the fellow was happy as a clam thereafter.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 4, 1952


Avast, Ye Mateys

“NOTICE: Diana and I are going for three weeks leave, Sunday, September 5th. CS-G Comm, Lt. Nikki Freedman will be handling my lines while I am away. Further, the Guardian Offices WW and US are fully on post and completely capable of handling any matters which may arise. In case of extreme emergency, these Offices will also be in communication with me. Therefore, if any matter arises which has to do with Guardian Office functions and duties, place these on CS-G Comm’s Lines and such will be handled via the appropriate Guardian Office. The word is: BUSINESS AS USUAL.” — Love, Mary Sue Hubbard, Capt. CS-G, September 4, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Just a note to say that I fully support the ban of Justin Craig’s pseudo-Scientology. LRH was quite clear in stating that after OT8 come actual OT levels, not more chasing of negative gain cosmologies. I suggested earlier that Craig could possibly be a BT from LRH’s left testicle.”


Past is Prologue


2000: The U.S. State Department issued its second annual report on religious freedom, describing the situation in various countries and centering much attention on Scientology. From the section of the report on Germany: “The Government does not recognize Scientology as a religion and views it as an economic enterprise. Concerns that Scientology’s ideology is opposed to a democratic state have led to the screening of firms and individuals in some sectors of business and employment. The U.S. Government has maintained consistently that the determination that any organization is religious is for the organization itself. The U.S. Government has expressed concerns over infringement of individual rights because of religious affiliation and over the potential for discrimination in international trade posed by the screening of foreign firms for possible affiliation with Scientology.”


Random Howdy

“You should watch me play Jeopardy when I’m properly medicated.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial scheduled for October 11.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Arraigned on August 29.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for October 24 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place, next status hearing October 25. Scientology petitioning US Supreme Court over appellate ruling.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



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] Liz Gale: The Scientology auditing of kids at Mace-Kingsley was my childhood
[TWO years ago] SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Episode 2 spiked by Aussie network, ‘Witness X,’ is leaked online
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s biggest donors of 2019, so far: The whales giving millions to Miscavige
[FOUR years ago] Two years after Scientology rehabbed an Australian acoustics lab, the silence is deafening
[FIVE years ago] Tomorrow on ‘Leah Remini’: You’re going to learn what it’s like on Scientology’s ‘Bridge’
[SIX years ago] Florida AG Pam Bondi hosting human rights event at human rights abuser Scientology’s HQ
[SEVEN years ago] Actress Erika Christensen in unearthed video meant only for her fellow Scientologists
[EIGHT years ago] LIVE REPORTS FROM TAMPA: Scientology tests its religious freedom defense in fraud lawsuit
[NINE years ago] Our Man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, on the Scientology Appeal in France’s Highest Court
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Never Forgets: A Telemarketing Holiday Miracle


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 2,777 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,282 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,832 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,822 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,713 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,018 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,888 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,993 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,466 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,782 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,348 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,267 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,435 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,015 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,277 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,313 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,028 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,553 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 908 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,083 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,634 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,765 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,103 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,958 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,077 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,433 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,736 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,842 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,240 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,116 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,699 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,194 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,448 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,557 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 4, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email