Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge: Scientology leader not required to give deposition

David Miscavige, 53, has led the church since 1986.

David Miscavige, 53, has led the church since 1986.

Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has sidestepped giving a deposition in a high-profile harassment lawsuit filed in Texas by Monique Rathbun, wife of vocal church critic Marty Rathbun.

A Texas appeals court this week overturned December's ruling by Comal County, Texas, District Judge Dib Waldrip, who had ordered Miscavige to submit to questioning.

Even though Miscavige is named as a defendant, church attorneys argued from the outset that Waldrip's court had no jurisdiction over Scientology's longtime leader.

Miscavige lives in California, they pointed out, and has had no connection to church activities in Texas. He merely attended the 2009 opening of a new church in Dallas, lawyers said.

But Monique Rathbun alleges in her suit, filed in August 2013, that Miscavige directed a three-year campaign of harassment, spying and intimidation aimed at her and her husband. It began soon after Marty Rathbun, who had worked closely with Miscavige before leaving the church in 2004, spoke critically of Miscavige to the Tampa Bay Times and national media in 2009.

Also named as defendants in the suit are the Church of Scientology International, another Scientology corporation, three private investigators and a Scientology parishioner who joined a band of Scientologists who heckled the Rathbuns for several months outside their south Texas home. The couple lives in rural Comal County, north of San Antonio. Monique Rathbun, 42, has never been a Scientologist.

Church officers and attorneys do not contest the Rathbuns were targets. The investigators who watched them and church members who confronted the couple were investigating Marty Rathbun's anti-church activities and his delivery of Scientology services without church authorization.

In its ruling this week, Texas' 3rd District Appeals Court agreed Miscavige is protected by Texas "apex deposition doctrine,'' which shields high-ranking executives from being pulled into burdensome, harassing depositions.

Monique Rathbun and her legal team did not show Miscavige had "superior knowledge'' of the allegedly harassing activities, a threshold that could have compelled his testimony, the appeals court said.

That could happen later, however, the court said. With additional questioning of church representatives and further review of church records, Rathbun's team could demonstrate that a Miscavige deposition is necessary, the court said.

Rathbun declined to comment Friday. Marty Rathbun said Miscavige managed to "delay the inevitable.'' He added, "That opinion doesn't get him out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.''

Rarely seen in public, Miscavige, 53, has guided the church since Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986. He has testified a handful of times.

Rathbun's lead attorney, Ray Jeffrey of Bulverde, Texas, said striking the deposition was a blow. "Our case is clear — that this was a personal vendetta by David Miscavige against the Rathbuns.''

Church officers in Los Angeles did not respond to a request for comment.

Likely next in the case is a decision on the church's appeal of Waldrip's order in March denying Scientology's motion to dismiss the suit altogether. That could come by year's end, Jeffrey said.

Judge: Scientology leader not required to give deposition 07/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 9:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Long before Trump hired (and fired) him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida

    Blogs

    With Steve Bannon leaving the White House soon, we're re-posting this Leary-Smith look at Bannon's significant, if mysterious, Florida ties.

    Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.
  2. Rick Baker won't recuse himself from city business with his current boss Bill Edwards

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — If Rick Baker is elected mayor, he said he will not recuse himself from any city business involving his current boss, businessman Bill Edwards.

    Rick Baker and Bill Edwards listen to NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson during a press conference at the Mahaffey Theater in 2013 announcing that Edwards was the team's new owner. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]


  3. Spooky Empire brings Spooky Day in the Parks to Disney World

    Blogs

    Foolish mortals, evil queens and hook-handed pirates finally get their own day this year at Walt Disney World.

    Spooky Day in the Parks comes to Disney World Sept. 22-24.
  4. New York Times: Trump tells aides he has decide to remove Steve Bannon

    National

    President Donald Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Trump win the 2016 election, the New York Times reports, citing two administration officials briefed on the discussion.

    White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One as he arrives Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Bannon was with President Donald Trump on his return trip from Florida. [Alex Brandon | Associated Press]
  5. The weeks' most compelling photos from Tampa Bay and Florida

    Human Interest

    Florida photos of the week for August 11 - August 18: Beach family yoga, Confederate symbols as flashpoints, American Idol winners and hopefuls, Fetish Con, the second oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack turns 104, an armada of rubber ducks, and more.

    Jayden Sheene, 8, left, and Zoey Sheene, 6, rest atop at the arms and legs of their mother, Shelby Sheene, 27, of Holiday, while participating in a Beach Family Yoga gathering on Tuesday (8/15/17) at the Dunedin Causeway. The donation-based classes, hosted each Tuesday (10am), near the Sail Honeymoon rentals, were organized by area moms who wanted to practice yoga while providing an opportunity bond with their children through the spiritual and physical contact of the practice, which has its roots in ancient India. Yoga uses breathing techniques, poses and meditation to help improve health and happiness. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times)