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LOCAL : Ruling on Krishna Case Delayed

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Service Reports </i>

The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed a decision whether to hear the Hare Krishna’s appeal for relief from a $5-million judgment involving an Orange County mother and her daughter, who had once been a member of the religious sect.

The court also refused to hear an appeal by Marsha George and her daughter, Robin George Westerkamp, that it restore part of the nearly $10-million Orange County Superior Court judgment. But Westerkamp said the family had not had high expectations of success.

But the big disappointment, she said, is waiting for the high court’s decision on the Hare Krishna’s appeal.

“We’ve waited seven years, I suppose we can wait a few more weeks, or even months,” Westerkamp said today.

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An Orange County jury in 1983 awarded $32.5 million to the Georges, who claimed that the Hare Krishnas had coerced Robin into running away from home and joining the sect at age 14, then hid her away from her parents, who lived in Cypress.

The trial judge, James A. Jackman, reduced the award to about $10 million, and the 4th District Court of Appeal further reduced it to $2.9 million. The interest on that amount puts the total at about $5 million.

The Hare Krishnas claim that the only way they can raise enough money would be to sell some of their temples, including the one in Laguna Beach, where Robin George had spent time as a teen-ager.

Hare Krishnas argue that sales of the temples would destroy the sect and would be an interference of its religious freedom.

Today, the Hare Krishna leadership in San Diego issued a news release stating that the high court’s decision to delay a ruling “is a positive sign.”

“The longer the justices have to examine the facts surrounding this case, the more obvious it will become that the lower courts have trampled on the religious freedom of hundreds of thousands of people,” according to its news release.


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