Santa Barbara Independent 23 January 1993
Last Friday was a dark day for the embattled Church of Scientology. A special judge in Los Angeles attacked the church in the most blistering terms possible, charging it with gross abuse of the judicial process in its unsuccessful lawsuit against the now-defunct Church of the New Civilization, the Scientology splinter group that operated ‘The Advanced Abilities Center” in Montecito between 1983 and 1986.
U.S. Special Magistrate. James Kolts – the same retired Superior Court judge who conducted the recent investigation of the LA. Sheriffs Department– urged that the Church of Scientology be ordered to pay the defendants (the principals behind the Advanced Abilities Center) $2.9 mil- lion in attorney’s fees. The Scientology lawsuit against the center had been thrown unceremoniously out of court last July, and only in exceptional cases are attorney’s fees awarded to the prevailing party. But according to Kolts. this case has been nothing if not exceptional.
“Plaintiffs [Church of Scientology] have abused the federal court system by using it, inter alia, to destroy their opponents, rather than to resolve an actual dispute over trademark law or any other legal matter,” Kolts wrote. “This constitutes ‘extraordinary, malicious, wanton, and oppressive con- duct.'” He later stated, “It is abundantly clear that plaintiffs [the Church of Scientology) sought to harass the individual defendants and destroy the church defendants through massive over-litigation and other highly questionable litigation tactics. The Special Master [Kolts] has never seen a more glaring example of bad faith litigation than this.”
Most cases don’t have Special Masters, but because the volume of motions, countermotions, and pleadings has been so enormous, presiding fed- eral judge James Ideman appointed Kolts to help him wade through the morass of litigation. Although Kolts has acted with all the authority of a judge, his decisions must be reviewed by Ideman before becoming final.
Spokespeople for the Church of Scientology have vowed to have Kolts recommendation reviewed by Ideman, though Ideman has almost always supported Kolts in the past, and stress that it’s just that–a recommendation, not an order. They claim that all along they have sought only to protect their proprietary rights to secret and copyrighted counseling techniques developed by the church, techniques, they say that the Advanced Abilities Center had obtained illegally and illegally disseminated. “Kolts’ ruling is extremely flawed both legally and mor- ally,” said Kurt Weiland, director of official affairs for the Church of Scientology. “If you accept his reasoning, the victim will be punished and the villain rewarded.” Salvation, Incorporated
At the heart of this dispute lies a simple but intriguing proposition—namely, that the pathway to spiritual salvation and enlightenment can be copyrighted and secured by trademark protection. Unlike other organized religions, the Church of Scientology seeks to protect its key teachings and texts by copyrighting them and registering them under trademarks.
This conflict goes back to the year 1978, when Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, with major assistance from a talented acolyte named David Mayo, devised some very advanced counseling techniques, known as New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans, or NOTs for short. NOTs were available only to those well along the path of Scientologic spiritual advancement, they were very confidential, and, not incidentally, they were very expensive.
But by 1983, David Mayo had been purged from the Church of Scientology during a period of intense internal strife. He moved to Santa Barbara, where he and some fellow disaffected Scientologists sought to open their own church, The Church of the New Civilization, and operate the Advanced Abilities Center on Coast Village Road. According to attorney Gary Bright, who along with Jerold Fagenbaum has waged the center’s defense, L. Ron Hubbard viewed the new church with alarm He had good reason. According to Bright, the NOTs counseling was a big money-maker for Scientology and Mayo was offering it out of his center for far less than the Church of Scientology. And according to a former Scientology church official, Hubbard gave the order that Mayo and his new church “be squashed like a cockroach.”
At this point, Bright said, the Church of Scientology hired a team of detectives to conduct a very “noisy investigation” of Mayo and his church. They called themselves a “White Collar Task Force on Crime and Drugs” and they let everyone know they were “investigating Mayo for possible connections with international firearm smuggling and the Red Brigade.”
If that wasn’t chilling enough, Bright said, the detectives rented the room upstairs from Mayo’s center, they sent people to disrupt the meetings, and they placed 24-hour surveillance teams on Mayo, his associates, and even on Bright himself.
From nots to legal knots; Bright filed a lawsuit charging the Church of Scientology with harassment and intimidation, and in January 1985, Superior Court Judge Patrick McMahon ordered the church to cease and desist its noisy investigation. Two weeks later, the Church of Scientology filed a massive lawsuit against Mayo and the center, charging them with, among other things, racketeering, receipt of stolen property, and infringe. ment of trade secrets.
Scientologists point out that shortly before Mayo opened his center in Santa Barbara, the top-secret NOTs documents were stolen from a Copenhagen church, and that copies some how made their way into Mayo’s hands. Mayo, they say, never had any right to posses the NOTs document let alone offer to provide them. It was they said, a church trade secret.
Attorneys for the Church of Scientology took Mayo to federal court in Los Angeles, and by 1985, they succeeded in obtaining a federal injunction prohibiting Mayo from selling the counseling methods, in dispute.
`Plaintiffs [the Church of Scientology] have , abused the federal court system by using it, inter alia, to destroy their opponents rather than to try to resolve an actual ‘dispute … This constitutes extraordinary, malicious, wanton, and oppressive conduct.’
–U.S. Special Master James Kolts
That injunction, however, was lifted one year later, but by then it was too late; the Santa Barbara spin-off church had already folded. The Church of Scientology still pursued the matter, arguing that Mayo had cost them at least $2 million in lost revenues, and they sought untold more in damages.
Mayo and his attorneys fought back. He claimed that he, not L. Ron Hub- bard, developed the NOTs techniques, and that he was entitled to use them. The church denied this, and as part of the discovery process that is part of any litigation, Mayo and his attorneys demanded any and all documents held by L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology that would shed light on the true authorship of the NOTs meth- ods. The Church of Scientology has proven exceptionally reluctant to do so, going so far as to destroy and con- ceal documents.
According to Rev. Lee Holzinger from the Santa Barbara church, Scientology has developed very specific counseling techniques that must be offered in a very specific way and in a proscribed sequence. To do other- wise, he said, would subject the person counseled to potential risk and trauma. For that reason— and “to protect the purity of the text”—he said the church balked at releasing confidential documents to the court, where they could be made public.
Mayo’s attorney Bright saw it otherwise. “They’re using commercial trade laws to guarantee religious sanctity, and when we talk about religious sanctity, we’re really talking about an economic monopoly worth hundreds of millions,” he said. Whatever the real motivations are, the church’s refusal to release documents relating to their authorship of NOTs infuriated Kolts and Ideman. Two years ago, they – responded by ruling that the church could not say Mayo did not write the documents, to which the Scientologists shifted their stance and argued that even if he was the author, he was still a Scientology employee. The merits of that argument—and to what extent copyright laws apply here—never went to a jury because last July, Kolts and Ideman, enraged by the Scientologists’ refusal to release pertinent documents to the defence threw the case completely out of court
Hold the mayo:
In the meantime, Bright and Fagenbaum are not spending the $2.9 million They expect the matter will drag on for some time, with an appeal to higher federal courts likely. They have not been working the case for free, either. Although Mayo has not had the funds to sustain this legal effort, all attorney’s fees have been paid for by a former Scientologist and San Francisco psychiatrist named Frank “Sarge” Gerbode, who Scientologist Weiland contends is using Mayo’s case to obtain rights to use the NOTs counseling techniques.