Scientologists Accuse U.S. Judge of Bias as Suit Against Ex-Member Is Dismissed
Los Angeles’ chief federal judge, who has been accused of bias by Church of Scientology officials, Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by the church against a former member.
The ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel Real came after he again ordered a Scientology attorney removed from the courtroom for arguing too much. On Monday, Real sent another church lawyer, Donald C. Randolph of Los Angeles, to jail--also for arguing.
Although Randolph was released from custody several hours later, the ejection of another church attorney, Earle C. Cooley, Tuesday morning led Scientology officials to make an unusual decision--they asked the president of the church in Los Angeles, who is not an attorney, to address the court.
With Real listening impassively, the Rev. Ken Hoden, in an emotional voice, asked the question that had gotten church attorneys in trouble with the judge: Why was Real using his position to order all church-related cases brought into his courtroom?
“We just want to know what’s going on here,” Hoden said. “We just want our day in court. If we can’t, we’ll say goodby and go home.”
Real did not answer Hoden directly. But he denied a Scientology motion to return the church-initiated lawsuit against former member Laurel Sullivan to the court of U.S. District Judge William J. Rea.
“I’ve spent enough time on this and it would be a waste of judicial time,” Real said in rejecting the motion.
The judge later dismissed the suit, in which the church claimed that Sullivan--who is cooperating with federal authorities investigating Scientology--passed on confidential church information to federal agents.
Before Hoden spoke, Cooley told Real that Scientologists believe that “justice is a joke” in the judge’s courtroom.
As Cooley persisted in arguing a related point, Real cut him off in midsentence and told the attorney to sit down.
“Aren’t I going to be allowed to finish my arguments?” Cooley asked.
“Please sit down, Mr. Cooley, or you’ll also have to 9th Circuit. . . ,” Real said. The judge was referring to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered Randolph released from custody on Monday.
When Cooley ignored Real’s repeated orders to sit down, federal security officers were instructed by Real--accused by some critics of being quick-tempered and often shouting at attorneys who displease him--to remove Cooley from the courtroom.
Later, Real rejected a motion on behalf of Boston attorney Michael Flynn, who was also sued by the church, to dismiss, with prejudice, the case brought against him.
The judge also ordered the church to file any actions similar to the suits against Sullivan and Flynn only in Los Angeles, where they would be assigned to Real’s court.
That ruling, Hoden said later, proved that Real was guilty of “case shopping"--steering church-related cases to his courtroom to cover up what the church claims is illegal government misconduct.
One example cited by Hoden was alleged collusion between former church members and the Internal Revenue Service.
An estimated 300 church members and supporters, in protest of Real, paraded around the downtown Federal Courthouse on Tuesday as they had done the day before.