I have not had much time to dissect and comment on the order from Judge Barber in the Baxter/Paris case, sending them to scientology “arbitration,” so this is a bit stale. I was prompted to do this now by the request from the p[plaintiff’s lawyers to certify Judge Barber’s ruling for appeal to the 11th Circuit. The quirks of the system do not allow an appeal from his order — as it has not technically ended the case. It is now “stayed” pending the so-called arbitration. But because of the important and unique issues this order presents, they are asking the judge to certify his order for Appellate review.
Plaintiff’s Motion to Certify Order for Appeal
Before I get into any thoughts about what is wrong with Judge Barber’s ruling, I want to note the following statement reported in the Tampa Bay Times which speaks more loudly than anything of the complete sham that has been perpetrated on this and the other courts that have ruled in favor of scientology’s “arbitration” proceedings:
“We won,” Scientology spokesperson Ben Shaw said in a statement. “This decision is another victory for the Church. The judge has rejected plaintiffs bringing false and scurrilous allegations against the Church in court.”
This is the statement from the spokesperson for the organization that is supposed to be conducting this “fair” “arbitration.” He said what everyone familiar with scientology already knew and the courts have turned a blind eye to. Sending any case to scientology “arbitration” means they WON. The “judge has rejected plaintiffs false and scurrilous accusations” — by sending this to arbitration??? He doesn’t think he has “rejected” anything and in his order even comments on these allegations and how shocking they are. Of course, the outcome of a scientology “arbitration” is a foregone conclusion. The plaintiffs have already lost. Scientology gets to choose all the arbitrators who must be scientologist in good standing (meaning they follow what scientology tells them to do). They get to make up the rules of how the sham “arbitration” will be conducted. They get to approve the “findings.” And they already know the outcome before it starts.
How would you feel if you were on the other side of this “arbitration”? This is what the courts think is fair?
Scientology is SO brazen and convinced they can do anything they want, that they announce this in the media. We WON! And the “arbitration” hasn’t even taken place…
Now to Judge Barber’s ruling.
See my earlier post about the problem with Conservative judges.
Conservatives tend to be strict constructionists when it comes to the law. What this means in layman’s terms is that rather than creating “new law” they try to decide cases based strictly on “precedents.” This a judicial bent that is particularly harmful for plaintiffs and particularly helpful for scientology in matters relating to so called “religious arbitration.”
And it could not be more apparent in this order requiring the Baxters and Valeska Guider to be subjected to a scientology sham “arbitration” proceeding rather than having their claims heard before an impartial jury.
His reasoning for this is based entirely on case law precedent — citing to the same things the Garcia opinion did (first post above “they make up the rules as they go along,”) — courts favor arbitration (even though this is “arbitration” in NAME only and bears no resemblance to any arbitration ever contemplated) and courts “cannot entangle themselves in controversy about church doctrines” and thus are “forbidden” from reviewing what the claimed arbitration procedures are, no matter how one-sided or insane they are. In theory, if scientology policy called for dunking people like they used to do to witches, courts would not be able to second guess the procedure as their “religious right” to conduct arbitration any way they want.
There is NO PRECEDENT for a “scientology arbitration” (because before Garcia no such thing had ever existed) the 11th Circuit tried to shoehorn “scientology arbitration” into the case law covering arbitration in general. Typically arbitration is conducted by impartial former judges or agreed upon neutral parties, not bound by their religious beliefs to try to destroy their enemies. In this case those seeking justice against scientology are “the enemy.” So, to apply the laws created for “normal arbitration” to the scientology version of “arbitration” is a travesty of justice.
Because the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of scientology in the Garcia case, Judge Barber relies on their Garcia ruling to determine his outcome here. But he compounds his errors as he fails to differentiate between the two cases — the Garcia’s were ADULTS who did not live in scientology facilities and were not members of the Sea Org. The “Agreements” that (wrongly) bound the Garcias to arbitration were for services they PAID FOR (even though the only money they were asking be returned was for services they DIDN’T take and thus didn’t sign a specific agreement about). Here, the victims were minors, held against their will and under constant duress and never paid for any services (as they were Sea Org members). But, there is now “precedent” for enforcing “scientology arbitration.”
Even Judge Barber seems to understand how outrageous his decision is in light of the circumstance of the case.
“An uninterested observer reading the amended complaint would likely be surprised and shocked by the conduct alleged. But under existing law, Plaintiffs are limited to seeking relief through arbitration within the Scientology organization itself, not through the courts. This is what the law appears to require even where, as here, Plaintiffs allege they were forced to sign the agreements – enforceable for a billion years – under duress. An uninterested observer might also find such a limitation on access to the courts to be surprising and shocking, but such a limitation appears to be required under governing law.”
Wow, he can’t do ANYTHING. And he goes on:
“Under existing law, this Court’s hands are tied.”
Perhaps he could have read the dissenting opinion in the 11th Circuit decision to see how he COULD HAVE done something about this and stood up for what is fair and equitable. That judge saw through the BS, but was outvoted by the two other justices on the panel.
Judge Barber took the easy road that won’t ruffle any conservative feathers.
You know Judge Barber, there were once “precedents” that upheld segregation too. Precedents are NOT always right. Facts and circumstances, equity and justice matter too.
Valeska Paris and Laura and Gawain Baxter deserve a fair trial of their claims. Not to be forced back into an organization they escaped from to undergo more of their phony, traumatizing rituals.