Scientologist Objections to 2nd Judge Overruled

Times Staff Writer

Over their objections, lawyers representing the Church of Scientology in a civil case brought by a former member were ordered Thursday to appear for trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Swearinger.

Swearinger was the second judge to whom they objected having the case reassigned for trial Thursday after unsuccessfully moving for a continuance or a change of venue on grounds of pretrial publicity.

First assigned to Judge Robert B. Lopez, Scientology attorneys refused to accept him under a state law that permits each party to remove one judge without stating a reason.


The reassignment was necessitated last week when another judge, Alfred L. Margolis, removed himself from the case because of calendar conflicts after it was estimated that the trial could last as long as a year.

Motions Denied

The case was returned for reassignment to Assistant Presiding Judge Jack E. Goertzen who denied the motions for continuance and change of venue and declined to accept the Scientologists’ reasons for rejecting Lopez as trial judge.

The Scientologists objected to going to Lopez’s courtroom because of the Halloween appearance there of opposing counsel Charles B. O’Reilly who was wearing a costume they claimed ridiculed their religion. They also sought Thursday to have O’Reilly disqualified because of his conduct.

O’Reilly, who represents former Scientologist Larry Wollersheim in a multimillion-dollar fraud suit against the church, has admitted showing up at the courthouse in a monk’s robe Oct. 31 and said he was “accidentally” seen by Judge Margolis and, later, by a court attendant in Lopez’s empty courtroom.

“I am not excited by (O’Reilly’s) behavior, but I don’t think it warrants taking him off the case,” Goertzen said in denying the Scientologists’ request for an evidentiary hearing on the matter.

News Stories Cited

Attorney Earle C. Cooley said he will appeal that decision and exercised his peremptory challenge right to avoid going to Lopez’s court.


In papers presented to the court Thursday, the Scientologists sought to have the trial continued or moved to another location on grounds that newspaper stories, including one in The Times, earlier this week disclosed secret and sacred church beliefs in a distorted and prejudicial manner.