Court hearing: Valerie Haney's arbitration panel set, judge says Scientology sets the rules
We listened in remotely to this morning’s hearing at Los Angeles County Superior Court and the courtroom of Judge Gail Killefer in the matter of Valerie Haney’s lawsuit against Scientology, which has been forced into arbitration. (Valerie was represented by Graham Berry and was not in attendance.)
The court heard that an arbitrating panel has now been set, and the court is stepping back. Here are our notes of the proceeding…
Judge Gail Killefer: I understand that this case is on track now, Mr. Forman, if the Court can believe the declaration of Lynn Farny?
Scientology attorney, William Forman: It's true, your honor. Furthermore, I got an email from Mr Farny yesterday, forwarding a letter from Mike Ellis, the IJC. "This is to inform you that the two arbitrators have selected a third." This matter is with the arbitrators now.
Forman says that notices have also been sent from the IJC to Valerie.
Graham Berry: Your Honor, that may be correct, but her attorneys have received no notice, and Ms. Haney is no longer in California, she is in Florida.
Forman complains that he's pointed out many times that the correspondence is between Ellis, the IJC, and with Valerie directly, not to her attorneys.
"Mr. Berry can get the correspondence from his client," Forman says. He adds that the IJC is mailing things to her at a PO Box in California that they have used in the past.
Judge Killefer tells Berry that he needs to make sure Valerie gives her new address to the IJC. "That is an order."
Berry tries to make the point that the case is still in the courts, and so the attorneys should be getting notices.
Judge Killefer responds that although it makes sense to her that the attorneys would be notified, this is now in arbitration and the rules of the arbitral forum are what matter.
Forman: There is effectively nothing to do here today with the arbitration.
Forman then brings up the sanctions motion that they have filed against Berry, accusing him of making false accusations and forcing them to waste time answering him.
Berry argues that the sanctions motion was improperly attached to a document that was filed with the court.
But then Berry turns back to the arbitration. The church would have Valerie go back into the church that she escaped from in the trunk of a car. She should not go there alone. He asks the court to order that she be accompanied by one of her attorneys, and with a friend, and a court report who could videotape it. He says that there is good reason for this as spelled out in the Federal Arbitration Act, which allows the court to play a supervisory role to assure that Valerie's rights aren't violated. Her appeal rights, for example, will be harmed if she cannot have a record of the proceedings.
Judge Killefer says that she doesn't know what the IJC's requirements are for the arbitration.
Berry suggests that briefs be submitted by both sides about the procedures for a hearing six weeks out.
Forman looks visibly upset.
Forman: I think this is why the sanction motion should be heard. This is an unnecessary detour. These matters have been litigated years ago. We have been through this again and again. The fact is, the case has been ordered to arbitration, and this court has extremely limited jurisdiction. These matters should be raised with the arbitral forum. At the end, if she gets an award she doesn't like, she can come to this court and ask that it be set aside. All of this is the same thing we've been hearing for years. So I would not consent to setting a hearing.
Judge Killefer ignores Berry's request and says she wants to set up a post-arbitration hearing date for six months out.
Berry: We would do the arbitration within two months, but we need to know what the procedures are.
Judge Killefer says that's the IJC's jurisdiction. "I'm not going to interfere with the arbitration process."
Berry: But the plaintiff will come back without a record.
Judge Killefer: Let's set up a hearing for Nov 6.
Forman: Things are very difficult with Mr. Berry. I would ask 9 months.
Berry: The Garcia arbitration took 50 minutes. And I have never had a conversation with Mr. Forman before today.
Judge: The OSC is discharged. (The motion by Scientology to dismiss the lawsuit because Valerie was taking too long. That's now denied since the arbitration is going to take place.)
Forman: Can the sanctions order be heard?
Berry says he is willing to withdraw his submission that so enraged Scientology, making the sanctions issue moot.
Judge Killefer: Mr. Forman?
Forman: I would like an email on that.
The two sides agree to make the necessary filings that would make the sanctions issue moot.
Judge Killefer: See you on Nov 6.
And that was that. So a full arbitrating panel is set, and the judge is expecting that they will get the arbitration done in the next six months.
We still don't know the name of any of the three arbitrators, and it sounds like Valerie, in Florida, isn't getting the notices from the IJC in Los Angeles.
So we don't know where and when the arbitration will take place yet.
But Judge Killefer was unwilling to address Graham Berry's concerns that Valerie will not be allowed to have anyone with her when she goes to the proceeding, or that she will not end up with any kind of a record of it.
Valerie will have to take her grievances to a panel of Scientologists in good standing, and to an organization that, as Berry pointed out, she escaped from in the trunk of a car.
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