Scientology's War Against Judges
By James B. Stewart, Jr.
(The American Lawyer, December 1980)
On September 5, 1980, as U.S. District Court Judge Charles Richey was
from two pulmonary embolisms and exhaustion, lawyers for the Church of
and the Justice Department gathered before Judge Aubrey Robinson,
in the two-year-old conspiracy case against 11 members of the Church of
Judge Richey had already convicted and sentenced nine of the original 11
but the remaining two, recently extradited from England, were about to
go on trial.
"Particularly from the standpoint of your Honor's feelings about
who are members of the Church of Scientology..." began John
a lawyer for one of the defendants. He was interrupted by Judge
want to raise a motion to recuse?" the judge asked. He knew what
remark foreshadowed, having witnessed the Scientologists campaign to
Richey off the case. "Is this a fishing expedition?"
Robinson is the fourth D.C. district court judge to preside over the
case and the latest target of the Scientologists' self-proclaimed "
litigation strategy. Their strategy amounts to an all-out war against
district court judges, a war much more sophisticated, better financed
successful than the bizarre tactics used by some other groups against
adversaries, such as Synanon's attempt to murder an opposing counsel by
a rattlesnake in his mailbox.
Unlike Synanon, the Church of Scientology has long sought to
as a legitimate religion. Founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, a Science
writer, philosopher and author of the best-selling book Dianetics: The
Science of Mental Health, the church claims five million adherents to
philosophy. The Church of Scientology has called itself the spiritual
Buddhism in the western world, and focuses on what it calls "
to increase its members abilities and awareness. But in the past few
church has been accused of brainwashing and harassing its members, and
become em- broiled in dozens of lawsuits (see sidebar, page 32),
1978 criminal conspiracy charges against 11 of its members. Such
triggered increasingly militant responses, which focused, in the
on the federal judiciary. The Scientologists legal strategy has been to
the recusal of Judges lie at the root of the pending criminal charges
the Scientologists. In 1976. D.C. District Court Justice George Hart,
proposed a deposition of Hubbard in conjunction with one of many Freedom
Act suits filed by the church. Hart's remark (no deposition ever proved
caused Scientology officials to believe that the government knew
about Hubbard. As a result the church intensified its efforts to learn
the government might possess.
At the same time the church was issuing "Guardian Programme
(directives to church members telling them to use "standard overt
and "any suitable guise interviews" to monitor the activities
district court judges presiding in the FOIA suits. In 1977 that
extended to all 15 active judges in the D.C. federal district court.
Posing in some instances as students and journalists, Scientologists
the judges, researched their careers and backgrounds, followed them and
dossiers. According to Scientology documents, their goal was to
level" and "buttons on" --indicia of personal
the parlance of Scientology. But the church's operation went far beyond
surveillance. Members of the church were caught breaking into the
offices of the
IRS and the Justice Department, stealing and copying documents and
On August 15. 1978. l1 Scientologists were indicted on charges of
intercepting oral IRS communications, forging government passes,
government buildings, recruiting Scientologists to infiltrate the
stealing records belonging to the IRS, Justice Department and the U.S.
and conspiring to illegally obtain documents in the possession of the
and to obstruct justice.
The Scientologist defendants hired some well-known defense counsel.
Hubbard, the wife of church leader L. Ron Hubbard and the highest
on trial, retained Leonard Boudin of Rabinowitz, Boudin & Standard
Hertzberg, a solo practitioner, both activist lawyers now practicing law
York City. Two other defendants, Henning Heldt and Duke Snider, retained
Virginia, lawyer Philip Hirschkop, who had been counsel for the
antiwar protesters arrested in 1970. In all, 12 lawyers were hired to
defendants (two others had fled to England where they faced extradition
Boudin and Hirschkop soon assumed the leading roles in the defense.
Boudin and Hirschkop won't discuss why they were selected, but their
identification with radical and unpopular causes was undoubtedly
church members, This was Boudin's first association with the church, but
had handled a search and seizure matter for the church in 1977.
One lawyer who represents Scientologists and has worked with Boudin
offers this ideological defense for their taking the case: "It is a
case of government overreaching." he says. "The government
tolerate an organization with nonconforming beliefs. The Scientologists
up for their rights -- aggressively." Another lawyer who has worked
case adds a financial motive for their taking such a case: "These
pay their bills -- top dollar and on time -which is more than I can say
of my unpopular clients. This case will finance a lot of pro bono
Hirschkop won't say what he has received in legal fees from the
but the church is a prosperous client In one instance a member paid the
$30,000 for the required series of counseling sessions.
Whatever their reasons for taking the case, high-minded principles
characterized the campaign of the Scientologists' lawyers against the
of Columbia judges. In August 1978 the cases were assigned to Judge
judge whose comment had originally intensified the intelligence
who, like all of his fellow D.C. district court judges, had been
He became the first victim of the Scientologists' recusal strategy.
Boudin filed the first recusal motion in January 1979. His theory was
one: by telling Judge Hart that the judge himself was a target of the
own possibly illegal activities, he would cause the judge to be biased,
to be biased, against them. In his motion, Boudin quoted a Scientology
ordering an "overt" and "covert" data collection
against Judge Hart, which, in Boudin's words, "possibly [included]
of methods violative of the judge's privacy and other rights and
of the criminal laws." Boudin concluded that "the sitting
judge is revealed
to the jury and the public as a victim of possibly illegal actions,
"the judge has an obvious interest which may be affected by the
the case." Notwithstanding documents to which government and
had access ordering similar operations on all the District of (Columbia
court judges, Boudin declared that he knew of no other such campaigns.
Although government lawyers, led by chief prosecutor Raymond Banoun,
vigorously, arguing that the Scientologists were using their own
activities to disqualify the judge, Hart granted the recusal motion and
down. Hart denied that he was biased, but he agreed that the appearance
had been tainted by the Scientologists' surveillance operation against
was afraid a jury would be prejudiced against the defendants because of
alleged threats against me." Hart said recently. The case was
to Judge Louis Oberdorfer, who in light of Judge Hart's recent
for memoranda and oral arguments from both sides at the outset
grounds for disqualification. Government lawyers pointed out in their
Oberdorfer was formerly an assistant attorney general in charge of the
of the Justice Department, which had prosecuted a case that ended the
status for the founding Church of Scientology in Los Angeles in 1969.
concluded that he had "personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary
and on February 5. 1979. he too stepped down. Shortly afterward the case
to Richey, 57, a 1971 Nixon appointee whose liberal record -- especially
area of defendants rights -- surprised early critics. The assignment
pleased the Scientology defendants. In a pamphlet called "The Trial
Scientology Nine," prepared by the Scientologists, Judge Richey was
as having "a very fatherly visage . . though crippled with a
in his hip, one does not notice either his limp or his shortness. His
glinting from the lights of the courtroom add to the picture of a man of
intelligence and sympathy." And when Richey, too, asked at the
a recusal motion if one were planned, Boudin and Hirschkop said they
with his assignment to the case. That attitude was soon belied by a
harassment that took place in and out of the courtroom.
During the summer of 1979, court sessions were held for about three
Los Angeles, where Richey scheduled testimony on the Scientologists'
suppress evidence seized by the FBI in its 1977 raids of the church's
The thousands of documents seized in those raids constituted the core of
against the alleged conspirators. The hearings had been moved to Los
accommodate the Scientologists' witnesses.
Prior to his departure for Los Angeles, Richey received several death
The judge has never publicly alleged that those threats came from
and has said they were unrelated to the case, but he flew to California
by two federal marshals, and elaborate security precautions were
the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
During the hearings, defense lawyers repeatedly interrupted the
with objections, motions and audible commentary, including insults to
For example, Hirschkop and other counsel repeatedly and loudly ordered
to place adverse evidentiary rulings in a mythical "error
bad." On several
occasions, Hirschkop accused Richey of lying. At times, Richey left the
and walked out rather than hold defense counsel in contempt. Only once,
at a later
hearing, did the judge seem to boil over: speaking to Hirschkop, Richey
"I want to tell you right here and now, I resent it because I have
to hurt you or your clients. And this record is replete with insults and
else, when I have not done it to you and don't intend to." Banoun,
says Richey was too accommodating. "He should never have tolerated
" Banoun says.
Hirschkop claims that he was the one who was insulted. "Richey
contempt for me," Hirschkop says, recalling the time when, he
tried to "force-feed" him French fries in court. (Banoun says
simply offered all the counsel some French fries he had not finished at
"I called Banoun a liar," Hirschkop continues, "and the
me. But Banoun could insult me with impunity." Banoun denies that
true. Hirschkop concedes that he frequently became "heated" in
with Judge Richey but says, "I never called him dirty names."
In September 1979, after the Los Angeles hearings, Richey denied the
motion to suppress the evidence seized by the FBI. The defendants
into a stipulation of facts, which amounted to an admission of the
against them, and waived a jury trial. In return, the government agreed
23 of its 24 criminal counts.
Judge Richey explicitly warned the Scientologists that the
likely to result in their conviction: he subsequently conducted his own
of the evidence, which he said was "overwhelming evidence of guilt,
and on October 26, he convicted all nine. On December 6, two days before
were to be sentenced, a recusal motion against Richey was filed.
In this recusal motion, Boudin and Hirschkop again took the
that Richey's response to their courtroom tactics and to the threats
Richey was prejudiced against Scientologists. For example, without
the death threats were made by Scientologists, Hirschkop said that
information and belief, the security in Los Angeles was related to the
apprehension with regard to the defendants in this case or their church,
adding that "it is impossible to imagine a stronger --or more
--source of bias than fear for one's life or wellbeing."
Whatever its merits, the recusal motion was patently defective in at
two technical respects. The judicial recusal statute requires a "
motion supported by an affidavit signed by a "party." This
filed four months after the events complained of-- and after nearly 120
motions had been resolved against the Scientologists --and was supported
affidavit, not one of the defendants. ("I should have filed it much
Hirschkop concedes. "Richey was grossly prejudiced from the
In response to the motion, Judge Richey defended his security
that "the court may accept reasonable security precautions without
tainting its rulings in the case." He denied the motion and that
sentenced the nine defendants to prison terms of from six months to four
years. Eight pulled out checks for $10,000 the day of their sentencing,
nine are now free on bail pending appeal.
The denial of their first recusal motion and the sentences, which the
regarded as unconscionably harsh, led to a redoubling of defense efforts
Richey from the case. Six months later, in June 1980, defense counsel
with another recusal motion, more damaging and threatening to Judge
the first. The groundwork for that motion had been laid nearly a year
shortly after the Los Angeles hearings.
That summer, Thomas Dourian, Judge Richey's official court reporter
him to Los Angeles, was approached by Hirschkop soon after their return
In a sworn affidavit filed in response to the second recusal motion,
Hirschkop wanted to know if the security precautions in Los Angeles
Richey's fear of Scientologists. In the affidavit Dourian swore he
the judge was afraid but confirmed that before leaving Washington, the
his wife and two sons had received two death threats.
Soon after this encounter, in December 1979, a Scientology lawyer
Bast, a private detective who had worked for Hirschkop several years
investigate Judge Richey's security precautions. Bast's fee: $321,000
One of Bast's first steps was to infiltrate Richey's inner circle at the
In the spring of 1980, a few months after the Scientologists'
Cain, a Bast employee and retired police officer, approached James
of two U.S. marshals who had accompanied Richey to Los Angeles. Cain
to Perry that he had been retained by a European industrialist whose
had committed suicide, allegedly as a result of her involvement with the
of Scientology, and that his assignment was to uncover information that
be damaging to the church. According to Bast, Perry told Cain that he
write a book on the Scientology case, and Bast offered him a $2,000
says that Perry took the money, and they agreed to work together.
The evening of May 23, Perry and Cain met Dourian, the court
reporter, at his
home in Washington. According to Dourian's affidavit, Cain introduced
as a private investigator for International Investigations, Inc., Bast's
agency, and told him the same story about the European industrialist.
Dourian says in his affidavit that he found the story improbable but
his home had been burglarized and he had received threatening phone
he suspected came from Scientologists, he was curious about what Cain
were doing. According to the affidavit, Dourian met with Cain three more
and each time he was questioned about Judge Richey. At a meeting at his
May 31, 1980, Dourian says he realized that the conversation was being
Cain had been drinking heavily, Dourian says, and as a result, the court
was able to slip a small tape recorder and three cassettes out of Cain's
Dourian's last meeting with Cain was on June 19, when they met with Bast
dined at a nearby Pizza Hut. Again, Dourian was asked about Richey, and
The recordings of Dourian, along with tape-recorded statements made
-- all collected by Bast -- formed the basis for the next recusal motion
Judge Richey. The motion, largely incorporating an earlier recusal
by Hirschkop, was filed on June 20, 1980, as proceedings were beginning
the two defendants recently extradited from Great Britain. For some of
counsel, however, the recusal strategy had gone too far. There was
opposition within the ranks to these motions and the way they were
lawyer, Michael Nussbaum, who represented two of the defendants, didn't
papers and withdrew as trial counsel.
The affidavit in support of this motion was filed by Morris Budlong,
the extradited defendants, after he listened to various tapes and spoke
Among the prejudicial remarks that Budlong attributed to Judge Richey
Richey's death threats emanated from Scientologists; that Jim Jones and
were "all the same"; that it would be a "feather in his
to convict the Scientologists; and that Richey had told another judge
were spreading rumors about him as part of a "plot" to
A cryptic footnote to the affidavit declined to provide details of the
rumors about Richey, citing "respect for the court as an
But Hirschkop and other defense counsel knew the details of the plot
to. They had gotten them from Bast, who says he had combed the Los
for information about Judge Richey's personal habits, interviewing motel
employees and making videotapes and recordings. The information not
the motion was taken by Bast to political columnist Jack Anderson. The
figure in bast's story was a self-professed Los Angeles prostitute who
the Brentwood Holiday Inn, the motel where Richey stayed during the Los
hearings. In a video recording shown to Gary Cohn, a reporter for
prostitute recalled "in titillating detail," according to
Cohn, an encounter
with Judge Richey at the motel and his procurement of her services.
to Cohn, Bast also showed results of lie detector tests conducted by
Cain to demonstrate
that the prostitute was telling the truth; a tape recording of Perry,
marshal, claiming Judge Richey said, "Let's go get a woman";
and a tape
recording of Dourian, the court reporter, saying Richey "was always
Cohn says that he was initially skeptical of the story because he was
that Bast was employed by the Scientologists. But he says he had often
with Bast and trusted him. He says he considered but rejected the
that the prostitute was herself a Scientologist, planted to entrap the
Bast says only that his discovery of the prostitute was
that he paid her $1,200, that she is not a Scientologist and that she is
Cohn wrote the column, which later appeared under Anderson's by-line,
on Bast's investigation and Richey's procurement of a prostitute. Cohn
he is now "not happy" with the way the column was written. In
Dourian, the court reporter, who has heard the tapes he stole from
denies the remarks attributed to him.
Newspapers that subscribe to Anderson's column received the Judge
around July 11, a week before its release date of July 18. Some of them
at running it -- the New York Daily News decided not to publish it --
Washington Post used it only after extensive conversations with Cohn.
he never reached Richey for comment, and although Post editor Ben
he is sure "we did call (Richey) about the column," no comment
Richey appeared in the Post's version, either.
On July 16, Richey issued his opinion. Evidently referring to the
Anderson column, which Richey might have known about from reporters'
messages, Richey characterized the recusal motion as "this latest
in the escalating attack on the court" and found the grounds for
to be "insufficient as a matter of law," resting only on
rumor and gossip."
But, the judge continued, "defendants and their counsel have
groundless and relentless attacks on this court. Their motive is
It is an attempt to transform the trial ... into a trial of this
Though he labeled the attempts to remove him a "classic
abuse of the recusal statutes, he wrote that "the time has come for
in this case to proceed on the merits with the attention of all directed
real issues in this case." As a result, Richey withdrew from the
a state of exhaustion and near-collapse, according to associates.
On July 18, Jack Anderson's column appeared in newspapers throughout
Five days later, Judge Richey was hospitalized with exhaustion and
He has since declined all comment on the case, citing the code of
Judge Richey's ordeal may not be over. Hirschkop vows that his
the judge will continue, and he claims that the prostitute affair is
the tip of the iceberg." Although Hirschkop declines to disclose
he says if necessary he will expose additional damaging information
Apart from the delays, the campaign against Judge Richey has had
legal impact on the proceedings against the Scientologist defendants.
appeal is pending on a conventional search and seizure question, the
of the first nine stand. Trials of the remaining two defendants started
October under Judge Robinson and are still in progress.
The activities of the Scientologists and their counsel in this case
only to satisfy a commandment L. Ron Hubbard once wrote:
"The DEFENSE of anything is UNTENABLE. The only way to defend
is to ATTACK, and if you ever forget that, then you will lose every
are ever engaged in, whether it is in terms of personal conversation,
or a court of law. NEVER BE INTERESTED IN CHARGES. DO, yourself, much
and you will WIN."
In its July 1980 issue the American Lawyer named Judge Charles Richey
to the worst District of Columbia federal district court judge. The
most vehemently denounced Richey was one of the Scientologists' defense
and this same lawyer also referred our reporter to other lawyers who
Church of Scientology defendants. The reporter, who has since left our
says he was unaware of Scientologists' efforts to discredit and recuse
Without the lawyer's vehemently derogatory remarks and his referrals to
"sources," our reporter says he would not have named Richey in
BATTLES ON OTHER FRONTS
The Church of Scientology has been involved in almost constant
its founding nearly 30 years ago. Besides periodic clashes with the
the church has filed scores of suits against the media to inhibit the
of its activities.
Among the more recent cases involving the church and the media:
Fourteen libel suits have been filed against Paulette Cooper, New
writer and author of the 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, and her
Church documents seized in the 1977 Los Angeles raid and made public
revealed "Operation Freakout," a campaign of harassment
cooper that included death threats, obscene phone calls, phony letters
sexual behavior and a forged bomb threat against the church that
resulted in Cooper's
indictment in 1973. The charges against Cooper were dropped in 1975.
now retaliated with a $55-million suit against the church.
A 1977 suit against the San Diego Union asked $10,000 in damages for
of privacy from a reporter who had registered for a Scientology course
to write a story about the church. The church offered to drop the suit
to publish the story were dropped, but after the story ran, the church
its damage claim to $??,000 and added charges of fraud and deceit
paper. The case was dismissed on summary judgment.
In 1976 the church sued the Clearwater Sun in Florida for $1 million
to sue the St. Petersburg Times for a series of stories on the church.
spread rumors linking Times officials to the CIA, the FBI and the
and harassed reporters. The Sun countersued the church for abuse of
the Times sued for an injunction barring the church's harassment of its
The church subsequently dropped its suit against the Sun and never
on its threat to sue the Times. In March 1979 the church sued two New
Jim Siegelman and Flo Conway, after they criticized Scientology on the
Susskind Show" while discussing their book, Snapping. After the
suit against them was dismissed, the pair countersued, charging the
The church has lately found itself on the defensive in a flurry of
against it by disgruntled former church members and recruits. Currently
against the church are:
a suit filed October 21 by Lawrence Stifler, a Boston marathon runner,
41.25 million for damages sustained after he was allegedly physically
by a Scientology recruiter. Stifler says that due to the injury, he may
a $16-million suit filed in April by Tonja Burden, a 20-year-old
member who claims she was deceived and forced to remain in the church,
slave labor and kidnapped after she escaped;
a $21-million suit brought by jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo in February,
the church of embezzlement, kidnapping and forcing him to undergo a
a class action filed last December by former church staff member
Schack, seeking $200 million on behalf of church dropouts. Her suit
church of mind control, unlawful electronic surveillance and leaking
her private life to the media.
Last year, Julie Titchbourne, a former Church of Scientology member, was
42 million by a Portland, Oregon, jury, which found that the church's
of a better life were fraudulent. The church as subsequently sued four
for $2 million collectively, claiming that they induced Titchbourne to