Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Scientology starts collecting $1 million judgment from longtime Tampa nemesis

Ken Dandar agreed never to sue the church again, lawyers say.

Ken Dandar agreed never to sue the church again, lawyers say.

The Church of Scientology has begun collecting a $1.07 million court judgment from one of its chief challengers, Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar, who has waged high-profile legal fights against Scientology off and on for 17 years.

Armed with a court order, the church garnished the bank account of the law firm of Dandar and Dandar on Sept. 26. Ken Dandar and his brother, Thomas, have practiced together for years.

The move caps a lengthy and acrimonious court battle. It stems from Dandar's decision in 2009 to represent a Virginia woman in a wrongful-death suit filed against the church in Clearwater after her son died while visiting his Scientologist father.

Church lawyers immediately objected, arguing that Dandar had formally agreed in 2004 to never sue Scientology again. That year, he and the Clearwater church had settled another wrongful-death suit — this one filed seven years earlier on behalf of Scientologist Lisa McPherson, who had died in 1995 after being cared for 17 days by church staffers in the Clearwater church, Scientology's worldwide spiritual headquarters. (The later suit was eventually dismissed.)

In March, senior Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell agreed with church lawyers — that Dandar had breached the McPherson settlement, terms of which never were made public. Hearings before Farnell were even closed to the public.

Farnell ruled Dandar must repay Scientology for its legal fees and other costs — a bill totaling $1,068,156.50.

"It's a tremendous amount of money,'' Dandar told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.

The garnishment froze his firm's account, he said. He declined to say how much his firm had in the bank. But he said of the church's strategy: "They didn't get much.''

The impact is significant, however. The account is the firm's operating capital. It pays employees, rent, taxes and other bills. The firm laid off a support staffer this week, Dandar said. Three others remain on staff.

In papers filed in federal court in Tampa this week, Dandar said the garnishment is "effectively shutting down the law firm.''

He backed off that Friday. "I am never giving up practicing law and being an attorney who has a wealth of information concerning Scientology,'' said Dandar, who is 59 and has been practicing in Tampa since 1979.

Asked if the church finally had prevailed, he stated: "Why are they afraid of me? That's the question.''

What happens next is unclear. Dandar had forestalled the church's efforts to collect by filing a flurry of appeals and other actions in state and federal court.

"Everyone turned me down,'' he said of the judges.

If he opens a new account at another bank, the church can garnish it, he said. Also, according to Farnell's order, he can be jailed if he doesn't comply.

Dandar still has a suit in federal court in Tampa accusing the church of violating his civil rights. He also said the church had erred in garnishing his firm's account because it impacts his brother's ability to practice law. Dandar said his brother was not a party in the second wrongful-death suit.

He also insisted he never agreed in 2004 to not sue Scientology again.

The church did not respond to a request for comment.

Scientology starts collecting $1 million judgment from longtime Tampa nemesis 10/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, October 3, 2014 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022

    Business

    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?

    College

    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:

    NO, BUT IT WAS A MIRACLE

    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection

    Columns

    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.