Lawyers ask federal judge to end Scientology leader’s ‘cat and mouse’ game

TAMPA – For months, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige played “a game of cat and mouse” by avoiding official announcements in a human trafficking case, according to Manuel Dominguez, a lawyer represented the three church workers.

In a Tampa federal courtroom Friday, Dominguez said the three attorneys who represented Miscavige could “end it now” by revealing their whereabouts. customer.

“This is just a game, and I don’t think it should be done,” said Dominguez, a partner at Cohen Milstein in Palm Beach Gardens.

US Magistrate Judge Julie S. Sneed also tried to ask Miscavige’s lawyer, Joseph Terry, for a speech, but was unsuccessful.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys asked Sneed to disclose Miscavige’s services, as they made 27 attempts between May and August to deliver court documents to the Scientology leader at 10 church locations in Clearwater and Los Angeles. After a 90-minute hearing Friday, Sneed said he would take both sides’ arguments under advisement before issuing a ruling.

The leader is being sued in this case, along with some other church organizations.

The first three members of Scientology’s full-time staff, the Sea Org, said they were bought into the church as children and forced to work as adults for little pay. or not. Valeska Paris and husband and wife Gawain and Laura Baxter, who filed the lawsuit in April, left the Sea Org in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

On September 9, Sneed directed the secretary to issue a subpoena for Miscavige through the Florida Secretary of State, an alternative method of serving the accused if the summons fails. direct service.

But on Friday, Terry argued that the attorneys for the former employees did not prove their authority to serve Miscavige through the Secretary of State because they did not show that Miscavige was conducting private business in Florida.

Dominguez said that Miscavige “does a lot of business here in Florida” and mentioned his New Year’s Eve appearance at the Fort Harrison Hotel. He also pointed to an article by the Tampa Bay Times that detailed Miscavige’s phone call on January 6 with Clearwater City Administrator Jennifer Poirrier to discuss the church’s plans.

But Terry, the chairman of Williams & Connolly LLP’s First Amendment practice group in Washington, DC, said Miscavige is a California resident. He said any business that Miscavige conducts in Florida is in the context of his “special capacity” with the church, not as a person.

Many of the former employees’ allegations stem from their time serving on Scientology’s Freewinds cruise ship, which operates in the Caribbean. Terry argued that their claims do not arise from Miscavige’s business in Florida but “something that happened on a boat 15 years ago.”

Dominguez countered that Miscavige is in full control of Freewinds and that his business in Florida stems from the claims of his customers. He said the other churches named in the lawsuit are in Clearwater and “the church itself is the representative,” Dominguez said.

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“He and Scientology are the same group, that’s how this church is run,” Dominguez said.

The five parishioners who are jointly accused in the lawsuit have been entered and filed. sent in the month of July to promote the claim in the parish, which goes before a group of faithful members of the church. A judge has not yet made a decision on the church’s request to remove the case from the American courts.

Meanwhile, Dominguez has argued his legal team has moved to serve Miscavige, including hiring a private investigator, to examine the records of the government and the questioning of lawyers representing five members of the church for Miscavige’s mailing address.

When businessmen tried to deliver documents to 10 church locations in Clearwater and Los Angeles, police refused to accept the documents and said they did not know where the church leader lived or worked. organization, according to court filings.

In affidavits filed in the case, former Sea Org commanders Aaron Smith-Levin and Mike Rinder said Miscavige was living in a wing of Hacienda Gardens, a Sea Org special operations facility on North Saturn. Avenue and Keene Road in Clearwater. But Terry said Smith-Levin and Rinder left Scientology more than a decade ago and had no direct knowledge of the leader’s whereabouts.

He also pointed to a December 31 YouTube video in which Smith-Levin discussed a police response to a Scientology property in Riverside County, California, saying Miscavige lives and works there.

But in determining whether the court should declare Miscavige acted through the secretary of state, Dominguez said whether he is a resident of Florida is “irrelevant.” He said, the court should look at the many efforts of his legal team to find out where to do his business.

The law, he said, does not allow the defendants “to make a complicated way to manage.”

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