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175879162 DeCrescenzo vs Scientology Motion for Summary Judgment Ocr

175879162 DeCrescenzo vs Scientology Motion for Summary Judgment Ocr

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Motion for Summary Judgment
Motion for Summary Judgment

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<endall Brill
!ft Klieger LLP
0100 San1a Mor{fca.Blvd.
:uite 1725
OS Angeles, CA 90067
ORIGINAL
KENDALL BRILL & KLIEGER, LLP
1 BERTH. DEIXLER (Bar No. 70614)
10100 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 1725
2 Los Angeles, California 90067
Telephone: 310.556.2700
3 Facsimile: 310.556.2705
4 RABINOWITZ, BOUDIN, STANDARD,
KRINSKY & LIEBERMAN, LLP
5 ERIC M. LIEBERMAN (pro hac vice)
45 Broadway, Suite 1700
6 New York, NY 10006
Telephone: 212.254.1111
7 Facsimile: 212.674.4614
8 Attorneys for DEFENDANT CHURCH OF
SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL
9
FILED
SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA
COlJNTV ()i:;" I l)c;; p.1r.:ict,ES
OCT 25 ZOlZ
JEFFER, MANGELS, BUTLER & MITCHELL, LLP
10 ROBERT E. MANGELS (Bar No. 48291)
MATTHEW D. HINKS (Bar No. 200750)
11 1900 A venue of the Stars, 7th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067 ·
12 Telephone: 310.203.8080
Facsimile: 310.203 .0567
13
Attorneys for DEFENDANT RELIGIOUS
14 TECHNOLOGY CENTER
15
16
17
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, CENTRAL DISTRICT
LAURA ANN DeCRESCENZO,
18
19
20
V.
Plaintiff,
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
21 INTERNATIONAL, et al.,
22
Defendants.
23
24
25
26
27
28
Case No. BC411018
[Assigned for All Purposes to the Hon. Ronald
Sohigian, Dept. 41]
DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON GROUND
THAT STATUTES OF :a:_, n
BAR THE ACTION
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Filed concurrently with Sltl;meilt :
and Declaration of Bert r.i •• ••
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Hon. Ronald Sohigian g 5i ::=
January 17, 2013 § i.;
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Date:
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Action Filed: April 2, 2009
. July 29, 2013
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 1
STATEMENT OF THE CASE ............................................................................................. 1
A. Prior Proceedings ...................................................................................................... 1
B. Stateme:r;it Of Uncontroverted Facts .......................................................................... 4
ARGUMENT .......... ; ........................................................................................................... 12
A. Equitable Estoppel Applies Where A Defendant Inequitably Acts To
Induce A Potential Plaintiff Reasonably To Delay Filing A Timely Lawsuit
And Where The Plaintiff Institutes The Action Within A Reasonable Time
After The Circumstances Inducing Delay Have Ceased To Operate ...................... 12
B. Defendants Engaged In No Conduct That Would Equitably Estop Them
From Invoking Their Statute Of Limitations Defenses ........................................... 13
1. Plaintiff May Not Invoke Equitable Estoppel on the Basis of Alleged
Representations That Plaintiff Had Released Her Right to Bring a
Lawsuit ........................................................................................................ 13
a. No Such Representations Were Made ............................................. 13
b. Even if Defendants Made Representations That the Releases
Waive Plaintiffs Right to Sue, Such Denials of Legal
Liability Cannot Support a Claim of Equitable Estoppel.. .............. 13
c. . As this Court Previously Found (a Finding Not Disturbed by
the Court of Appeal Decision), Defendant Could Not
Reasonably Rely Upon the Alleged Misrepresentations ................. 14
2. Plaintiff May Not Invoke Equitable Estoppel on the Basis of Alleged
Threats of Harassment or "Banishment" ................................................... 16
a. Defendants Made No Such Threats ................................................. 16
b. Fear of Possible Excommunication Cannot Be the Basis for a
Finding of Equitable Estoppel.. ....................................................... 17
C. Plaintiff Failed To Institute This Action Within A Reasonable Time After
The Alleged Circumstances Inducing Delay Ceased To Operate ........................... 19
CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................... 20
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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Kendall Bnll 2
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TABLE OF AUTHORITIES
Page(s)
CASES
Anderson v. Watchtower Bible &Tract Society of New York, Inc.,
2007 WL 161035 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 19, 2007) ................................................................... 18
Deirmenjian v. Deutsche Bank, A.G.,
526 F. Supp. 2d 1068 (C.D. Cal. 2007) ................................................................................... 13
Green v. Travelers Indemnity Co.,
185 Cal. App. 3d 544 (1986) ................................................................................................... 12
Headley v, Church of Scientology Intl,
687 F.3d 1173 (9th Cir. 2012) .......................................................................................... passim
Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC,
565 U.S._, 132 S. Ct. 694 (2012) ...................................................•..................................... 17
Hurpia v. Universal Church,
2005 Extra Lexis 85, at *4 (L.A. Sup. April 14, 2005) ........................................................... 19
John R. v. Oakland Unified School Dist.,
48 Cal. 3d 438 (1989) .............................................................................................................. 12
Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in North Am.,
344 U.S. 94 (1952) .................................................................................................................. 17
Lantzy v. Centex Homes,
31 Cal. 4th 363 (2003) ....................................................................................................... 12, 14
Lobrovich v. Georgison,
144 Cal. App. 2d 567 (1956) ................................................................................................... 20
M,eroni v. Holy Spirit Assoc. for the Unification of World Christianity,
506 N.Y.S.2d 174 (N.Y. App. Div.1986) ................................................................................ 15
Mills v. Forestex Co.,
108 Cal. App. 4th 625 (2003) ...................................................................................... 12, 13, 20
Neff v. New York Life Ins. Co.,
. 30 Cal. 2d 165 (1947) .............................................................................................................. 14
Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc.,
819 F.2d 875 (9th Cir. 1987) ................................................................................................... 18
Peregrine Funding, Inc. v. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP,
133 Cal. App. 4th 658 (2005) .................................................................................................. 12
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
...
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TABLE OF AUTHORITIES
(Continued)
Page(s)
Sands v. Living World Fellowship,
1
34 P.3d 955 (Alaska 2001) ...................................................................................................... 18
2
Santee v. Santa Clara County Office of Educ.,
3 220 Cal. App. 3d 702 (1990) ................................................................................................... 20
4 Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the US. and Canada v. Milivojevich,
426 U.S. 696 (1976) ................................................................................................................ 19
5
United States v. Ballard,
6 322 U.S. 78 (1944) .................................................................................................................. 15
7
Vu v. Prudential Property & Casualty Ins. Co.,
8 26 Cal. 4th 1142 (2001) ..................................................................................................... 12, 14
9 Watson v. Jones,
10
11
12
80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679 (1871) ........................................................................................... 17, 19
STATUTES
18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 and 1595 ........................................................................................................... 1
13
28 U.S.C. § 1367 .'. .................................................................................................................. passim
14 OTHER AUTHORITIES
15
First Amendment ............................. : ................................................................................. 15, 17, 18
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Kendall Brlh
27
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11
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
10100 Santa MoniCa Blvd.
;uite1725
8 .OS Angeles, CA 90067 2
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1 TO LAURA ANN DECRESCENZO AND HER COUNSEL OF RECORD:
2 PLEASE TAKE NOTICE THAT on January 17, 2013 at 8:30 a.m., or as soon thereafter
3 as counsel may be heard in Department 41 of the above-captioned Court, located at 111 North Hill
4 Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Church of Scientology International and Religious Technology
5 Center ("Defendants") will and hereby do jointly move this Court, pursuant to California Code of
6 Civil Procedure § 437c, for summary judgment on all, or alternatively on each separate, count of
7 the Second Amended Complaint. The ground for the motion is that the applicable statute of
8 limitation for each count expired prior to the commencement of the action, and that the
9 uncontroverted facts and established law demonstrate that defendants are not barred from asserting
10 the statute of limitations as a defense by the doctrine of equitable estoppel.
11 This joint motion is based on this notice of motion; the attached memorandum of points
12 and authorities; the concurrently-filed Declaration of Bert H. Deixler, and the exhibits attached to
13 it; the concurrently filed Separate Statement of Material Undisputed Facts (SMF); all of the
14 pleadings (including but not limited to the Second Amended Complaint and all prior complaints),
15 files, and records in this proceeding before this Court and the Court of Appeal, the opinion of the
16 Court of Appeal filed June 24, 2011, the orders of this Court dated March 18 and April 30, 2010,
17 all other matters of which the Court may take judicial notice, and any argument or evidence that
18 may be presented to or considered by the Court prior to its ruling.
19
Dated: October 25, 2012
20
21 JEFFER MANGELS BUTLER & MITCHELL
LLP
22
23
24
25
By: __
MA
Attorneys for DEFENDANT RELIGIOUS
26 TECHNOLOGY CENTER
27
Dated: October 25, 2012
KENDALL BRILL & KLIEGER LLP
-and-
RABINOWITZ, BOUDIN, STANDARD,
KRINSKY & LIEBERMAN, LLP
( ,,...

. BERT
Attorneys for DEFENDANT CHURCH OF
SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL
<endall Brill 28
Klieger
0100 Santa Mon"ica
1
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
OS Angeles, CA 90067
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1 I.
2
INTRODUCTION
Defendants Church of Scientology International ("CSI") and Religious Technology Center
3
("RTC") submit this memorandum in support of their motion for summary judgment or, in the
4
alternative, summary adjudication of each count of the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC").
5
The grounds for this motion are that (1) it is undisputed that the action was filed almost
6
five years after plaintiffs claims had accrued and well after the statutes of limitations had run on
7
all of plaintiffs claims, and the action must be dismissed unless plaintiff can show that defendants
8
are equitably estopped from interposing the statutes of limitations as a defense; (2) it is the law of
9
the case that in order to invoke the doctrine of equitable estoppel, plaintiff must prove that
10
defendants made threats to or engaged in harassment of plaintiff that reasonably caused her to
11
delay filing this action after the plaintiffs claims had accrued; (3) the uncontroverted facts show
12
that defendants made no such threats or harassment, or engaged in any other improper and
13
inequitable conduct that caused plaintiff to delay filing this action in a timely manner; (4) the
14
uncontroverted facts show that plaintiff did not file her complaint within a reasonable time after
15
she no longer was subject to the effect of any alleged threats or other inequitable conduct.
16 II.
17
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
A. Prior Proceedings
18
Plaintiff filed this action on April 2, 2009, five years after she terminated her position as a·
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volunteer religious staff member of CSL [SMF 1]. She filed her First Amended Complaint
("FAC") on May 19, 2009, asserting claims for forced abortion, deprivation of liberty, unfair
business practices, minimum wage and maximum hour violations, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress. [SMF 2]. Plaintiff also asserted a claim for rescission, alleging that CSI
coerced her to execute a release and told her that it extinguished her legal rights. [SMF 3]. She
alleged that she was "coerce[ ed]" into signing the release while "under extreme duress"; that she
"did not freely consent" to its terms; and that CSI misled her to believe that the release was legal.
[SMF 4]. Finally, plaintiff added a federal claim for "human trafficking" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§
, .... 27 1589 and 1595. [SMF 5]. Plaintiff recognized in her FAC that all her claims were beyond the
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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1 statutes of limitations. Anticipating such a defense, plaintiff pleaded that defendants were
2 equitably estopped from invoking it. [SMF 6].
3 CSI removed the action to federal court, where it moved to dismiss plaintiffs claims as
4 time-barred. District Judge George H. King concluded that plaintiffs federal human trafficking
5 claim was barred by the statute of limitations, and dismissed it without leave to amend. Judge
·6 King rejected plaintiffs equitable estoppel argument, finding that under the circumstances any
7 reliance on the alleged representations about the releases was unreasonable. Having dismissed the
8 federal claim, the court declined to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367
9 to decide the claims asserted under state law, and remanded them to the Superior Court. [SMF 7].
10 On remand, CSI demurred to the F AC on the basis that plaintiffs claims were time-barred.
11 Plaintiff again argued that CSI was equitably estopped from raising the statute of limitations.
12 This Court sustained CSI's demurrer in its entirety, with leave to amend. [SMF 8].
13 Plaintiff filed her SAC, adding RTC as a defendant. [SMF 9]. Plaintiff again alleged that
14 "from approximately 1996 until 2004 [she did not] and could not reasonably discover that she had
15 claim[s]", and again alleged equitable estoppel on the basis of her alleged reliance on the
16 representations. [Id.] In addition, plaintiff alleged that CSI imposed upon her a "freeloader debt"
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for which she made payments after she left
1
, and that she "was threatened with rigorous sec
checks
2
and was threatened with being deemed a 'Suppressive Person'. if she in any way was
perceived to be an enemy of Scientology. . .. and would have been· subjected to harassment."
3
[SMF 1 O]. The SAC contains no specifics as to when or where the threats allegedly were made,
who made them, or what was stated. While she alleged that she "would have been subjected to
1
Plaintiff testified that a former staff member must pay her freeloader debt before being permitted
to undertake Scientology auditing. She always understood that a "freeloader debt" is an internal
matter of religious significance, and that no Scientology church ever attempted or threatened to
file a civil lawsuit to compel payment of such a "debt." [SMF 87-88].
2
Plaintiff testified extensively that a "sec check" is a religious confessional process used by the
Church of Scientology in its ethics counseling and justice procedures. [SMF 30-31 ].
27 3
Plaintiff testified that Scientologists were expected to cease communications with persons
28
declared "Suppressive Persons"; in effect such persons were excommunicated. [SMF 39].
2
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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harassment," plaintiff did not allege that she was harassed or that any threats caused her to delay
bringing a lawsuit. Instead, she alleged that from "2004 to 2008, plaintiff remained a loyal
follower of the Church of Scientology" until July 2008,
4
when she reviewed an Internet message
board from former Scientology adherents and discussed with family members their views of
Scientology, following which she abandoned her commitment to Scientology. [SMF 11].
Defendants demurred to the SAC. Plaintiff conceded in her opposition that her claim of
delayed discovery does not apply after 2004
5
, and acknowledged that her claims were time barred
unless defendants were equitably stopped from raising that defense. [SMF 12]. This court held
that even accepting plaintiffs assertion of delayed discovery, all of plaintiffs claims were filed
after the expiration of the limitations period. [SMF 13] ("[T]he plaintiff was aware of all the facts
in 2004, which would make a reasonably prudent person suspicious which would give rise to a
duty to investigate.")]. This court then rejected plaintiffs equitable estoppel argument because,
given the circumstances of her "escape'', "a reasonable person in plaintiffs position would have,
should have obtained counsel . . . to evaluate whether plaintiff had any legal recourse" after
defendants allegedly coerced her to sign documents as a condition for leaving. [SMF 14].
On appeal, plaintiff again acknowledged that even allowing for delayed discovery, all her
claims accrued no later than 2004. [SMF 15]. Plaintiff recognized that "the real issue is whether
[plaintiff] alleged adequate facts demonstrating that [defendants] should be equitably stopped from
asserting a statute of limitations defense." [Id. (emphasis added)]. Plaintiff urged that equitable
estoppel precluded defendants from invoking that defense on the basis of the defendants' alleged
(and allegedly false) representations that the release she signed validly waived all her legal claims
and on her unspecific allegations of intimidation and threats of banishment and harassment.
The Court of Appeal recognized that plaintiffs claims were time barred unless plaintiff
4
Plaintiff later testified repeatedly that it actually was in June, 2008. [SMF 116] .
25 5
See SMF 12 ("Plaintiff ... was brainwashed by Defendant such that she could not reasonably
26
have comprehended the wrongfulness of Defendant's acts prior to 2004"); ("[F]or the entire time
plaintiff remained at Defendant's facilities, the accrual of her claims against Defendant was
27 delayed ... "); and ("Plaintiff was not able to comprehend the wrongfulness. of Defendant's
conduct and actions from the period 1991 to 2004 because Plaintiff 'was enmeshed m a
28 confidential relationship with Defendants and was brainwashed'") (Emphases added).
3
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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1 "adequately alleged a basis for equitable estoppel precluding defendants' reliance on a statute of
2 limitation defense." [SMF 16.] On that issue, the Court reversed and remanded for further
3 proceedings. Significantly, however, the Court declined to adopt plaintiffs argument that
4 equitable estoppel applied because she allegedly relied on CSI's statements that she had waived
5 her legal claims by signing the release: "it is arguably true that defendants' alleged
6 representations concerning the legal effect of documents that plaintiff signed amount to a denial of
7 liability - which is not sufficient to support a claim of equitable estoppel." [SMF 17]. Having so
8 noted, the Court of Appeal did not reach this Court's holding that it would have been unreasonable
9 for plaintiff to have relied upon such representations concerning allegedly coerced releases
10 without consulting an attorney. The sole basis for the Court's remand was its holding that
11 plaintiffs allegations of "intimidation and threats of banishment and harassment, if true, may
12 preclude defendan_ts, in equity, from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense," and were
13 sufficient "for pleading purposes," even though "plaintiff does not expressly allege that the threats
14 caused her to delay filing her complaint." [SMF 18]. The Court stated that plaintiff could seek to
15 amend her complaint to add such an allegation. [Id] Significantly, plaintiff has not done so .
16 B. . Statement Of Uncontroverted Facts
17 The facts set forth in this sub-section are uncontroverted. They are based primarily upon
18 the testimony of plaintiff herself, or of her family members.
19 Plaintiff was born into a family that practiced Scientology as its religion. [SMF 19]. Her
20 parents both had been and were religious staff volunteers at local Scientology churches, including
21 in their home city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. [SMF 20]. From an early age, plaintiff was
22 brought up as a follower of the religion, and she became a strong devotee of it. [SMF 21].
23 Plaintiff learned and accepted Scientology doctrines and beliefs. [SMF 22]. Among the
24 beliefs was that each person is an immortal spiritual being, called a thetan, who has experienced a
25 succession of physical lives. [SMF 23]. Thetans have been burdened over their past and current
26 lives with engrams, past experiences of pain, which interfere with their abilities and block their
i") 27 road to salvation. [SMF 24]. Like her fellow Scientologists, plaintiff believed that by
<endall Brill ·
~ Klieger 'LLP
0100 Santa Morjioa:illvd.
:uite 1725 ·
OS Angeles, CA 90067
28 participating in Scientology, she could overcome those burdens and progress along "the Bridge,"
4
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
1 which consists of "steps to total freedom." [SMF 25]. She also believed that such spiritual
2 advancement must be achieved across the "eight dynamics" of existence, which plaintiff identified
3 as self; family; one's group or groups; mankind in general; all living things; material things
4 including '.'matter, energy, space and time"; spirituality; and infinity which is "considered the God
5 dynamic." [SMF 26]. A Scientologist was expected to act in a manner that achieved "the greatest
6 good for the greatest number of dynamics;" this was a core belief of the religion which plaintiff
7 always tried to follow. [SMF 27]. The ultimate goal of Scientology was to spread the beliefs and
8 practices worldwide so that all persons could progress on "the Bridge", thereby achieving a "clear
9 planet." [SMF 26].
10 Plaintiff understood that the Scientology practice of "auditing" is the core part of the faith.
11 [SMF 28]. Auditing is a form of spiritual counseling. [Id.] An auditor uses a religious device
12 called an E-Meter to assist in removing barriers to spiritual progress. Auditing addresses such
13 barriers from a person's past lives as well as one's current physical life. [Id.]
14 Ethics is Scientology's religious moral code. [SMF 29]. Past or current unethical acts
15 (called "out-ethics") interfere with one's spiritual progress. [Id.] As plaintiff explained, a key part
16 of ethics consists of "overts," meaning overt ethical "transgressions," and "withholds," meaning
17 the failure to acknowledge and confront such acts. (SMF 30]: Scientology ethics counseling
18 includes confessionals through which a parishioner confronts his overts and withholds ("O/Ws"),
19 in his current and "past lives," thereby overcoming that barrier to spiritual progress. [SMF 30,
20 32]. These confessionals are called "sec checks." [Id.]. They are part of the religious practices of
21
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Scientology. [SMF 31] As plaintiff wrote in an essay in one of her religious training courses:
Ethics is a very key part of getting staff and public up the bridge .... If a
person is involved in out-ethics himself he will not make case gain
[spiritual progress] and thus will not move up the Bridge. You can use
the tech of ethics (i.e., sec checking, o/w's, conditions, etc.) to get a
person's ethics in and then he will be able to progress up the Bridge. If
there is out-ethics in an Org. [a local Scientology church] this will turn
public away and thus their Bridge progress will be blocked. [SMF 32].
.'-) 25
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A, few Scientologists choose to devote their lives (including future lives for a "billion
,..,_) 27 years") to work for their religion, in the same manner as monks, nuns, priests, and other clergy.
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28 [SMF 33-34]. They do so by committing to join Scientology's religious order, known as the Sea
5
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action

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1 Organization, or "Sea Org." [Id.] According to plaintiff, the purpose of the Sea Org is to bring
2 ethics to bear on the entire planet and to create a "cleared planet." [SMF 35]. Sea Org members
3 agree to work anywhere in the world for long hours with no salary, receiving only the necessities
4 of life and a small weekly allowance, and agree to submit to the discipline and lifestyle constraints
7
8
9
5 of the Sea Org. [SMF 34]; see Headley v, Church of Scientology Intl, 687 F.3d 1173, 1174-75
6 (9th Cir. 2012) (discussing the "Sea Org's lifestyle constraints" and "strict discipline"). A Sea
Org member "may formally withdraw his vows and leave the ministry through a process called
'routing out,"' Id. at 1175, which often includes participating in Scientology ethics programs and
the performance of manual chores. [SMF 37].
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A Sea Org member who leaves without routing
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out may be subject to religious discipline, including being declared a "suppressive person," the
equivalent of excommunication. [SMF 39]; see Headley, 687 F.3d at 1175.
Plaintiff was a member of the Sea Org. [SMF 33]. She underwent extensive training
under Scientology scriptures as a Sea Org member; over her career she took 30-40 Scientology
courses as training for her religious positions, all of which involved studying the writings of
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, which are the basis of the religion. [Id.].
While plaintiff held several positions over the course of her career at CSI, most of her time
was devoted to two. First, for six years, she held the position of Investigations and Evaluation
Director for CSI, whose function was to insure that Sea Org members at CSI were properly
performing their work. [SMF 41]. She conducted hundreds of investigations relating to the
administration of the church for management under-performance and for ethics violations,
conducted ethics interviews and used an E-Meter hundreds of times, and recommended remedial
programs. [SMF 42]. Plaintiff agreed that her job was done "in accordance with technology
[Scientology religious practice]" and "consistent with the teachings of the Scientology scripture."
[SMF 43]. To carry out her responsibilities plaintiff "spent endless amounts of time on studying"
6
Plaintiff knew "many people" who routed out of the Sea Org, including her sister Emily, whom
plaintiff had recruited to join the Sea Org. As Emily described the process, it took about three
months during which time she engaged in confessionals and performed light labor such as
washing dishes. When she tired of the process, she complained and she completed the process
·"':.-·:
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OS Angeles, CA 90067
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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1 and "was required to master" Church scripture concerning its ethics and justice systems._ [SMF
2 44]. At least two persons were declared suppressive persons as a result of her work. [SMF 45].
3 In addition, plaintiff frequently recommended that individuals be assigned to the Rehabilitation
4 Project Force ("RPF"), where Sea Org members who commit serious ethical violations or violate
5 important church policies attempt to overcome their ethical transgressions. [SMF 46]. Plaintiff
6 believed that the RPF was intended to assist the rehabilitation of its members. ("[T]he whole
7 purpose of the RPF is to rehabilitate a Sea Org member to go back on post or fix a Sea Org
8 member"); ("[I]t's like a justice thing. You're sent there because you messed up. And they tell
9 you that the purpose is instead of firing you they are fixing you basically".) [SMF 47]. Sea Org
1 O members on the RPF are expected to spend "five hours" every day in religious study and auditing.
11 [SMF 48]. In recommending that people be assigned to the RPF, plaintiff acted "in accordance"
12 with her religious training and church policies, and believed that "they needed to be rehabilitated
13 as per what I had been trained." [SMF 49]. She believed she was "doing something that was
14 important," thought she was good at her job, and usually accomplished her goals. [SMF 50].
15 Plaintiffs second major position was as "co-audit supervisor" while she herself was on the
16 RPF. She was responsible for supervising the provision of auditing and confessionals to other Sea
17 Org members who were there with her, and did so for hours on a daily basis. [SMF 51].
18 In 1995, plaintiff married Jesse DeCrescenzo, who also was a Sea Org member. [SMF 52].
19 Jesse was strongly committed to serving in the Sea Org. [Id.] They never discussed the question
20 of having children until after plaintiff became pregnant. [SMF 53]. Plaintiff unilaterally decided
21 to cease taking birth control pills because she wanted to have a baby. [SMF 54]. Plaintiff did not
inform her husband of her decision to stop taking the pills or her desire to have a baby. [Id.]. 22
23 According to Sea Org religious policy, a Sea Org member could not remain in the Sea Org
24 if he or she had a young child. [SMF 55]. The policy was based on the fact, as plaintiff
25 acknowledged in her testimony, that Sea Org members would be unable to carry out their Sea Org
26 responsibilities, which involved total commitment to one's religious work, long hours and strict
27 discipline, while also taking responsible care of young children. [Id.] At the time plaintiff
.\, .•.,,..
<endall Brill-. 28 stopped taking her birth control pills, Sea Org policy was changing from permitting a Sea Org
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
1 member to accept an assignment with a lower level Scientology church to requiring a Sea Org
2 member who became a parent to leave the Sea Org by "routing out'', while remaining a practicing
3 Scientologist. [SMF 56].
4 Plaintiff became pregnant in February 1996. She was aware of the change in Sea Org
5 policy, but does not remember whether it had fully taken effect as of that date. [SMF 57]. Before
6 stopping birth control, plaintiff had made no effort to find out what policy was in effect because
7 she "honestly didn't care. [She] wanted to have a kid." [Id.]
8 When she told Jesse she had become pregnant, in her words he "freaked out." [SMF 58].
9 Jesse expressed concern about how they would live if they left and had a baby and stated that he
10 wanted to remain in the Sea Org [id.], b.ut, in response to plaintiffs wishes, he wavered for several
· 11 days. [SMF 59]. Plaintiff testified that church officials tried to convince plaintiff to have an
12 abortion and for her and Jesse to remain in the Sea Org. [SMF 60]. These officials implored her
13 and Jesse that it was the "greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics" for them to remain in
14 the Sea Org. [Id.] Jesse ultimately told plaintiff that he wanted to remain, and that he thought she
15 should have an abortion because, "We both have always wanted to be in the Sea Org." [SMF 61].
16 Plaintiff acknowledged that "[n]o one physically forced me to have an abortion" and that she
17 ultimately was "convinced" to have an abortion,7 because it was "the greatest good for the greatest
18 number of dynamics" and because she wanted to stay with Jesse, who had made clear that he
19 would not leave the Sea Org. [SMF 62]. Plaintiff testified that this decision, and the process
20 leading to it, caused her a great deal of emotional distress at the time, that it was the "biggest"
21 example of the emotional distress she suffered in the Sea Org, that she was aware at the time of
22 her emotional distress and she discussed it with her husband, and that "it came up every year in
r' 23 my Sea Org history ... that what had happened killed me because I was made to abort a child that
·"'::\
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! ' - ~ · 25 In May 2001, plaintiff became "incredibly emotionally distressed," and unhappy with her
:r:=
26 life as a Sea Org member. [SMF 65]. She asked herself, "What am I doing here .... I was
..•
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Plaintiff also told her half-sister Kelly Forest in 2010, while this lawsuit was pending,
:7":
<endall Bri'[ 28 that she was "convinced to have an abortion" and "agreed to do so." [SMF 63].
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1 completely and utterly miserable." She testified, "I was crazy at the time .... I was mentally
2 broken down. . . . I was so upset and so messed up that I was - I was going nuts. . . . I was
3 extremely upset and desperate at the time." [SMF 66]. She thought "I don't want to be here
4 anymore but I don't want to lose my husband," so she decided to pretend she was pregnant so
5 "that I could leave with Jesse." [SMF 67]. She then wrote a long report to an ethics officer in
6 which she "confessed" to numerous improper and unethical acts she in fact had not committed and
7 also stated "I'm pregnant and I'm not having an abortion." [SMF 68, 69]. (She later pretended to
8 terminate her non-pregnancy. [SMF 70].) She testified, "I basically made myself look like the
9 scum of the earth because I wanted out and I was like I need to make myself look so bad that they
10 just don't want me anymore." [SMF 68]
11 In response, plaintiff was required to participate in ethics procedures. [SMF 69]. Because
12 of "everything [she] had written" in her report, she was charged with ethical violations and given a
13 "Committee of Evidence," which is a religious justice proceeding. [Id.] When she learned that
14 the Committee recommended that she be assigned to the RPF, she decided, "Screw that, I'm not
15 going to the RPF," took $1000 from her husband, and flew to Portland to visit her grandmother,
16 who was not a Scientologist. [SMF 71]. She spoke on the phone with James Parselle, another Sea
17 Org member, and with Jesse, who tried to persuade her to return. [SMF 72]. Plaintiff ultimately
18 agreed to return for the purpose ofrouting out of the Sea Org. [SMF 73]. Upon her return, church
19 officials encouraged her to stay and to obtain rehabilitation in the RPF. [SMF 7 4]. Over the
20 course of two weeks, she had many meetings with James Parselle, who, in her own words,
23
24
21 "eventually ... ended up convincing me to go to the RPF." [Id.] Parselle "was trying to revitalize
22 the original reason why I joined the Sea Org ... to help people ... , which he succeeded in doing."
[Id.] She also stayed because she did not want to lose her husband, who did not want to leave.
After again wavering about her decision, she "finally agreed somewhat" to stay. [SMF 75].
25
26
27
28
Plaintiff admitted that when she was on the RPF she "didn't feel [she] had been held
against [her] will"; "I thought that it was the greatest good for me to do it at that point." [SMF
76]. As she later posted on the Internet after having become a public critic of Scientology, but
before she decided to bring a lawsuit: "I didn't feel like a 'victim' ... And I still do not feel like a
9
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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1 victim. Those things happened. I was part of it. I thought it was 'all ok' and the 'greatest good'.
2 I am not going to pretend that I had nothing to do with it, no one held a gun to my head forcing me
3 to do things." [Id.] (emphasis added).
4 While plaintiff was in the RPF, her principal duty was to provide and supervise the
5 provision of auditing and ethics confessionals to Sea Org members [SMF 51]; she enjoyed
6 auditing others because she "felt that I was helping somebody." [SMF 77]. In addition, plaintiff
7 engaged in her own religious study and auditing, including "past life" auditing, for hours every
8 day and experienced many positive spiritual gains while on the RPF. [Id.] On several occasions
9 plaintiff walked away from her assignment only to return; after she left she posted an Internet
10 message that "I would literally go off the base whenever I had a chance." [SMF 78]. She traveled
11 to Albuquerque by· herself for her sister's wedding and left to celebrate Christmas with her
12 husband's family. She then decided on her own to return to the RPF. [SMF 79].
13 In 2004, however, plaintiff felt so distressed that she again decided to leave. Not wanting
14 to participate in the routing out process which she felt it took too long and involved confessionals
15 and manual labor, she seized upon a scheme to pretend she attempted suicide by swallowing
16 bleach, hoping that act would result in her immediate dismissal. [SMF 80] It worked, and
17 plaintiff left within several days, after participating in an abbreviated routing out process. [SMF
18 81-82]. In the course of the process, she was given some documents to sign which she believed
19 included a release of all claims. She "is pretty sure that it was just Alex Duval" [another Sea Org
20 member] who was present and presented the documents to her. [SMF 82]. She can remember no
21 conversation she may have had with Duval at the time, whether about the content and meaning of
22 the documents, or anything else. [Id.]
23· After she left, plaintiff continued to consider herself a Scientologist. [SMF 83]. She
24
25
26
wanted to get back on the "Bridge" because she believed in Scientology as "a matter of faith" and
wanted "to get the spiritual guidance that one gets from one's religion." [Id.] She still wanted to
help "clear the planet." [Id.] Indeed, her life partner, Daniel Turner, testified that during this time
>-·· 27 "She was 100% Scientologist. That was her life." [Id.] Thus, despite the distress she
~ .. ·'\
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1 leave the Sea Org, she read Scientology religious books and listened to Scientology lectures,
2 attended and volunteered to help set up Scientology functions , and sought out, met and had
3 numerous friendly communications with numerous Sea Org members. [SMF 84-86, 98-99, 108]
4 She attempted to interest Turner in Scientology, and defended it against his sometime hostile
5 comments. [SMF 112] When a number of Sea Org members asked if she had doubts about her
6 faith, she truthfully said she did not and found their questions offensive. [SMF 107].
7 At her deposition, plaintiff was questioned in detail about the content and nature of every
8 communication or meeting she had with
1
current and former Sea Org members and church
9 officials. At no time did any such person ·even broach with her the subject of her bringing a
10 lawsuit against CSI, let alone make any threats or suggestions that she better not or else she would
11 be subjected to harm or harassment. [SMF 85-111, 113]. As Turner testified, no one was
12 pressuring her not to bring a lawsuit. [SMF 114] Given that she was a committed Scientologist
13 and was offended by questions challenging the faith, the idea of bringing such a lawsuit was not
14 even a question plaintiff considered. As she testified, the very first time she even considered
15 bringing a lawsuit was in July, 2008, after she had rejected Scientology and had begun
16 communicating on anti-Scientology web sites, i.e., after she was free of the alleged inequitable
17 conduct which supposedly had intimidated her not to bring a lawsuit. [SMF 115].
18 It was only in June 2008, after seeing an anti-Scientologist website on her mother's
19 computer and after her mother explained that she no longer was a Scientologist, did plaintiff
20 abandon her commitment to Scientology. [SMF 116]. Shortly after that, plaintiff began
21
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27
participating in anti-Scientology discussion groups on the Internet. In the course of doing so,
plaintiff stated as early as July 2008 that she was considering bringing a lawsuit (stating "I would
be a millionaire") and inquired whether others had considered doing so. [SMF 117]. She had
numerous Internet conversations about the topic; communicated directly with Marc Headley, who
had brought his own lawsuit; and received information about the possible claims she might bring
in a lawsuit, including a rough draft of a potential complaint in July 2008. [SMF 118]. She then
put aside thoughts of bringing a lawsuit ("I .wasn't particularly thinking about it") until January
<endall 28 2009, when a New York lawyer contacted her about bringing a lawsuit. [SMF 119]. She
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
1 communicated with him and another lawyer about the subject in January and early February of
2 2009 (id.), but still did not file a lawsuit until April 2, 2009. All told, plaintiff waited to file a
3 lawsuit until ten months after the alleged reasons that had prevented her from doing so earlier
4 ceased to exist in June 2008.
5
6
III. ARGUMENT
A. Equitable Estoppel Applies Where A Defendant Inequitably Acts To Induce A
Potential Plaintiff Reasonably To Delay Filing A Timely Lawsuit And Where
The Plaintiff Institutes The Action Within A Reasonable Time After The Cir-
7 cumstances Inducing Delay Have Ceased To Operate
8 Equitable estoppel "comes into play only after the limitations period has run and addresses
9 ... the circumstances in which a party will be estopped from asserting the statute of limitations as
1 o a defense to an admittedly untimely action because his conduct has induced another into
11 forbearing suit within the applicable limitations period." Lantzy v. Centex Homes, 31 Cal. 4th
12 363, '3·83 (2003); see Peregrine Funding, Inc. v. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, 133
13 Cal. App. 4th 658, 686 (2005). Equitable estoppel thus is unlike tolling doctrines, which are
14 "concerned with the point at which the limitations period begins to run and with the circumstances
15 in which the running of the limitations period may be suspended." Lantzy, 31Cal.4th at 383. The
16 party estopped must have intended that his inequitable conduct would have such a result, and the
17 party asserting estoppel must have relied upon the conduct to his injury. Green v. Travelers
18 Indemnity Co., 185 Cal. App. 3d 544, 556 (1986).
19 Moreover, to invoke equitable estoppel, a plaintiff's reliance on the defendant's conduct in
20 failing to bring a timely action must be reasonable. Lantzy, 31 Cal. 4th at 384-385; see Vu v.
21 Prudential Property & Casualty Ins. Co., 26 Cal. 4th 1142, 1152-53 (2001); Mills v. Forestex Co.,
22 108 Cal. App. 4th 625, 655 (2003) ("Reliance by the party asserting the estoppel on the conduct of
23 the party to be estopped must have been reasonable under the circumstances.") .
.
24
Such reliance must be justified throughout the period for which the plaintiff fails to bring
\,) 25 suit. For example, if, as here, a plaintiff claims that she did not sue because of threats or
7:, 26 harassment, she must show "when the effect of any such threats ceased." John R. v. Oakland
"·) 27 Unified School Dist., 48 Cal. 3d 438, 446 (1989). "If there is still ample time to institute the
·'"':'.''":
<endall 28 action within the statutory period after the circumstances inducing delay have ceased to operate,
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1 the plaintiff who failed to do so cannot claim an estoppel." Mills, 108 Cal. App. 4th at 655-56;
2 Deirmenjian v. Deutsche Bank, A.G., 526 F. Supp. 2d 1068, 1092 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (plaintiff must
3 "explain why [she] waited so long to file suit.").
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B. Defendants Engaged In No Conduct That Would Equitably Estop Them From
Invoking Their Statute Of Limitations Def ens es
Plaintiff has alleged two grounds for application of equitable estoppel: (1) that defendants
made false representations that she had waived any legal claims by signing a release in April 2004
when she left CSI, and that plaintiff reasonably had relied on such representations until June 2008;
(2) that defendants made unspecified threats to plaintiff that she would be harassed or "banished"
if she sued the churches, although, as the Court of Appeal noted, the SAC did not specify the
threats or even allege that they caused plaintiff to delay bringing a lawsuit. The alleged acts never
took place, and, in any event, such acts would not support application of equitable estoppel.
J. Plaintiff May Not Invoke Equitable Estoppel on the Basis of Alleged Rep-
resentations That Plaintiff Had Released Her Right to Bring a Lawsuit
a. No Such Representations Were Made
Plaintiff conceded that no such representation was made, either at the time she executed
the release or at any other time. The record is quite clear and uncontroverted. Plaintiff testified
that at the time she signed the releases and left her position at CSI, she spoke with only one
person: Alex Duval. She stated that she did not remember anything that Duval said to her, let
alone about the releases. Thus the uncontroverted fact is that plaintiff cannot establish that anyone
made the kind of representations upon which her assertion of equitable estoppel is based.
b. Even if Defendants Made Representations That the Releases
Waive Plaintiff's Right to Sue, Such Denials of Legal Liability
Cannot Support a Claim of Equitable Estoppel
The Court of Appeal declined to adopt plaintiffs argument that equitable estoppel applied
because she allegedly relied on CSI's statements that she had waived her legal claims: "it is
arguably true that defendants' alleged representations concerning the legal effect of documents
that plaintiff signed amount to a denial of liability which is not sufficient to support a claim of
27 equitable estoppel." Court of Appeal Opinion, at 12 (citing Lantzy and Vu).
,7 ..
<endall Brill• 28
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1 The Court of Appeal's statement follows well established law. The California Supreme
2 Court has repeatedly made clear that equitable estoppel applies only to a misrepresentation of
3 facts, and does not apply even to knowing misrepresentations concerning the legal consequences
4 of those facts. In Vu, the Court responded to a certification from the Ninth CirctJit asking whether
5 Neff v. New York Life Ins. Co., 30 Cal. 2d 165 (1947) remained good law. As Vu explained in
6 continuing to adhere to Neff, the Court in Neff had distinguished between misrepresentations of
7 fact and misrepresentations of legal liability to invoke equitable estoppel to avoid the limitations
8 bar: "Neff concluded that 'no mere denial ofliability, even though it be alleged to have been made
9 through fraud or mistake, should be held sufficient,"' to plead an estoppel. Vu, 26 Cal. 4th at 1150
10 (quoting Neff, 30 Cal. 2d at 172-73); see also id. at 1152 ("reaffirm[ing] our holding in Neff," and
11 noting "Neff and many of the cases applying Neff were careful to distinguish such a representation
12 [denying liability] from a misrepresentation of fact. The latter, they noted, could lead to an
13 estoppel") (emphasis original). Exactly as in Neff, plaintiffs claim is nothing more than "that
14 defendants concealed the 'fact' of plaintiffs right to recovery."
15 The Supreme Court strongly reaffirmed Neff and Vu in 2003 in Lantzy. "[T]he defendant's
16 mere denial of legal liability does not set up an estoppel.... [T]o the extent defendants' alleged
17 ... that a lawsuit should not be filed[] was a mere denial of defendants' liability, rather
18 than a representation of fact, it was insufficient to establish an estoppel to assert the statute of
19 limitations." Lantzy, 31Cal.4th at 384-85, nn. 18, 20 (emphases in original).
20 Just as in the Supreme Court's decisions in Lantzy, Vu, and Neff, because plaintiff does not
21 allege that defendants made any misrepresentation of fact concerning her claims, equitable
22 estoppel does not, and cannot, apply.
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c. As this Court Previously Found (a Finding Not Disturbed by the
Court of Appeal Decision), Defendant Could Not Reasonably
Rely Upon the Alleged Misrepresentations
As noted above, this Court twice, and the federal court once, rejected plaintiffs assertion
of equitable estoppel based upon her alleged reliance on the purported representations, each time
holding that, under the circumstances alleged including her faked suicide and that she was coerced
to sign the releases, it would have been unreasonable for plaintiff to rely on such representations
14
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
•.
1 without consulting a lawyer. The Court of Appeal decision did not reverse or reject those
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findings. Thus there is no reason for this Court to depart from its prior holdings that it would have
been unreasonable under the circumstances for plaintiff to have relied on such representations.
Moreover, the uncontroverted evidence conclusively demonstrates that it would have been
unreasonable .. Plaintiff testified extensively that she experienced severe emotional distress on
several prior occasions while she was a staff volunteer for CSI, including when she was convinced
'
to have her abortion, when she faked a second pregnancy, and when she was convinced to
participate in the RPF rehabilitation program. Even more to the point, plaintiffs claim that she
was forced to sign the releases against her will by definition put her on notice that they may not
have been binding. For plaintiff now to claim that it was reasonable for her to rely on the validity
and lawfulness of documents she was forced against her will to sign, and on the truthfulness and
accuracy of the alleged representations of their validity, is simply preposterous. Once plaintiff left
her position after pretending to attempt suicide she could have and should have consulted a lawyer
if she wanted redress. The simple fact is that plaintiff did not want to bring a lawsuit and did not
even consider it because she remained committed to her church and her religion. The fact that she
chose to put aside her feelings of past distress because she continued to be a strong and loyal
Scientologist is not and indeed under the First Amendment religion clauses could not be deemed
to be an ineffective choice. United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 87 (1944) (religious practices
and viewpoints that "might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people" are protected).
(An individual] must have the personal and individual right to determine for himself or
herself to associate with a religious group... Otherwise, in order to avoid potential
liability, neither the Church nor any other association could ever rely on a person's
agreement to join, and the individual's ability to consent to join would be severely
compromised.
-'· 23 Meroni v. Holy Spirit Assoc. for the Unification of World Christianity, 506 N.Y.S.2d 174, 176-78
. . - : : ~ · i
· ~ . . , 24 (N.Y. App. Div.1986) (dismissing lawsuit for emotional distress allegedly arising from "fasting,
,'-) 25 chanting, physical exercises, cloistered living, confessions, lectures, and a highly structured work
;)'\
26 and study schedule", because such conduct "constitutes common and accepted religious
\,; 27 proselytizing practices").
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2
2. Plaintiff May Not Invoke Equitable Estoppel on the Basis of Alleged
Threats of Harassment or "Banishment"
a. Defendants Made No Such Threats
3 In the course of plaintiffs deposition, defendants' counsel exhaustively reviewed with her
4 every contact, conversation or communication she had with representatives of the defendants or
5 with other Sea Org members from and including the time she departed from her position at CSI
6 after pretending to attempt to commit suicide through and including the time she actually brought
7 her lawsuit. Plaintiff recounted to the best of her memory the contents of every conversation or
8 communication she had with such individuals throughout that time period. Plaintiff recounted not
9 a single conversation or communication in which she was threatened in any manner whatsoever,
10 let alone threatened about bringing a lawsuit. [SMF 85-111, 113] ·
11 Defendants' counsel elicited similar testimony from plaintiffs entire family, including her
12 parents, brother, sisters, and Daniel Turner, her long-term partner and father of her children. To
13 the contrary, Mr. Turner stated that no one was pressuring her not to bring a lawsuit. [SMF 114].
14 While the SAC alleges that CSI imposed a "freeloader debt" upon plaintiff when she left,
15 plaintiff testified that she well understood that, as matter of church policy, Scientology churches
16 never bring a civil lawsuit to collect a freeloader debt because it is entirely an internal religious
17 matter; a person with an unpaid and unexcused freeloader debt may not participate in certain
18 Scientology religious services. [SMF 87-88] In fact, plaintiff wanted to pay off her debt as soon
19 as possible, and contacted the appropriate church officials as soon as she left her position at CSI to
20 facilitate that process. [SMF 86]. As Turner testified, "She wasn't upset about the freeloader
21 debt." [SMF 89]. No "threat" arose from the "freeloader debt."
22 Indeed, plaintiffs testimony makes manifest that the idea of bringing a lawsuit against her
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church was the furthest thing from her mind, despite the fact that plaintiff had engineered her
"escape" from her ministerial position at CSI and previously, by her own admissions, had suffered
substantial emotional distress at various times while she worked at CSL Plaintiff still considered
herself a committed Scientologist in good standing, still participated in church activities, still
believed in the Scientology religion, and still wanted to help clear the planet, as she repeatedly
stressed throughout her testimony. As Turner testified, even during this period of time, "She was
16
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1 100% Scientologist. That was her life." [SMF 83]. She clearly had chosen to overlook whatever
negative experiences she had had and to remain on good terms with her church; she admitted that
she never even considered bringing a lawsuit until July 2008, after the statute of limitations had
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run. [SMF 115] The fact that she later had a crisis of faith and rejected what she previously held
dear cannot remedy the fact that for the over four years after she left CSI in 2004 she continued to
believe in that faith and chose not to end her commitment to Scientology by bringing a lawsuit.
b. Fear of Possible Excommunication Cannot Be the Basis for a
Finding of Equitable Estoppel
Plaintiffs SAC alleges that she "would have" been subject to "banishment" if she acted
contrary to Scientology policy by bringing a lawsuit. While plaintiff does not allege and has not
testified that defendants made any such a threat, she suggests that the "threat" derived from her
belief that she would be declared a "Suppressive Person" if she sued the church.
Plaintiffs assertion of equitable estoppel based on the fear or "implicit" threat of excom-
munication must be rejected under the First Amendment. As early as 1871, the Supreme Court
made clear that matters internal to religious organizations "which concern[] theological contro-
versy, church discipline, ecclesiastical government, or the conformity of the members of the
church to the standard of morals required of them" are beyond the ken of judicial authorities, and
that those who participate in such religious bodies do so subject to the internal rules of those bod-
ies. Watson v. Jones, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679, 733 (1871); see Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral of
Russian Orthodox Church in North Am., 344 U.S. 94, 115-16 (1952) (recognizing that Watson is
mandated by the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment); Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lu-
theran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S._, 132 S. Ct. 694, 704 (2012) (quoting Watson and
Kedra.ff). Specifically relevant here, the Watson Court stated:
This court ... cannot revise or question ordinary acts of church discipline .... We cannot
decide who ought to be members of the church, nor whether the excommunicated have
been justly or unjustly, regularly or irregularly cut off from the body of the church.
Watson, 80 U.S. at 730 (internal quotations omitted).
27
Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit has held that the practice of shunning in the Jehovah's
28 Witness religion cannot be the basis of a lawsuit, even though it may inflict severe humiliation and
17
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
1 emotional distress. Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc., 819 F.2d 875,
2 883 (9th Cir. 1987) ("[r]eligious activities which concern only members of the faith are and ought
3 to be free -- as nearly absolutely free as anything can be"); accord, Sands v. Living World
4 Fellowship, 34 P.3d 955, 958-59 (Alaska 2001) (following Paul, holding that shunning by
5 Christian church protected by First Amendment); Anderson v. Watchtower Bible &Tract Society of
6 New York, Inc., 2007 WL 161035, at *19 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 19, 2007) ("[s]hunning is
7 religiously based conduct, a religious practice based on interpretation of scripture, and is subject to
8 the protection of the First Amendment") (citing Paul and Sands). The Anderson court engaged in
9 an extensive survey of shunning and other church discipline cases, and held that "[ c ]onduct that is .
10 inextricably tied to the disciplinary process of a religious organization is subject to the First
11 Amendment's protection just as the disciplinary decision itself," and that "[t]he bar to review of
12 the ecclesiastical decision to terminate a person's membership in a church extends to additional
13 claims that derive from that decision or are inextricably linked to it. " Id. at * 19-20 (emphasis
14 added).
15 But rio case is more directly on point than the Ninth Circuit's recent decision in Headley v.
16 Church of Scientology International, 687 F .3d 1173 (2012). The Headleys, like plaintiff here,
17 were former members of the Sea Org who claimed to have "escaped." Represented by the same
18 lawyers as represent plaintiff, they brought a similar lawsuit against the same defendants. Among
19 other things, the Headleys claimed that they were "coerced" to remain in their positions for many
20 years because they were afraid that if they departed without complying with religious procedures
21 for leaving the Sea Org, they would be declared suppressive and might lose contact with friends
22 and family. See id. at 1175. In affirming an order of summary judgment in favor of the
~ ~ : · 23 defendants, the Ninth Circuit explicitly rejected the Headleys' argument that threats of
24 excommunication were improper:
i'-) 25
[W]e must distinguish between improper threats or coercion and permissible warnings
of adverse but legitimate consequences .... This case involves the latter. A church is
entitled to stop associating with someone who abandons it. A church may also warn
that it will stop associating with members who do not act in accordance with church
doctrine. The former is a legitimate consequence, the latter a legitimate warning.
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Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
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1 Id. at 1180. Thus, any attempt by plaintiff to invoke equitable estoppel on the basis of an alleged
2 implicit threat to declare her a suppressive person must be rejected.
3 The same result must obtain with respect to plaintiffs claim that if she sued she would be
4 subject to sec checks. First, since plaintiff already had left her position with CSI and was living at
5 home in New Mexico, she could not be subject to a sec check unless she agreed to be. Clearly, if
6 plaintiff had crossed the Rubicon by filing a lawsuit, she would not have agreed and her counsel
7 would not have permitted her to agree. Second, even if she had agreed, as plaintiff testified, a sec
8 check is a religious practice used in Scientology ethics processes and as part of the ecclesiastical
9 disciplinary process of Sea Org members; indeed plaintiff herself conducted hundreds of sec
10 checks of Sea Org members as part of her religious duties at CSL As the Watson Court stated,
11 courts "cannot revise or question ordinary acts of church discipline." Watson, 80 U.S. at 730;
12 accord, Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the US. and Canada v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696,
13 713, 717 (1976) (courts may not involve themselves in "matters of discipline, faith, internal
14 organization, or ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law. . . . [Q]uestions of church discipline and the
15 composition of the church hierarchy are at the core of ecclesiastical concern"); Hurpia v.
16 Universal Church, 2005 Extra Lexis 85, at *4 (L.A. Sup. April 14, 2005) (Sohigian, J.) ("Courts
17 cannot tamper with a religious organization's determination of religious or ecclesiastical matters,
-
18 such as religious doctrine, religious discipline, or members' compliance with standards of faith
19 and morality") (citing cases).
20
21·
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
C. Plaintiff Failed To Institute This Action Within .A Reasonable Time After The
Alleged Circumstances Inducing Delay Ceased To Operate
Plaintiff testified that her reliance on defendants' alleged acts ended in June 2008, yet,
without explanation, she did not file her lawsuit until ten months later. That does not mean she
did not think about it. As early as July, 2008, plaintiff discussed bringing a lawsuit in posts on the
internet, stating, "I would be a millionaire." [SMF 117]. Subsequently, she participated in
numerous internet discussions about a potential lawsuit, reviewed and commented upon a draft
complaint which included claims similar to those she eventually brought, communicated about
bringing a lawsuit with Marc Headley, who himself brought a lawsuit whose dismissal recently
19
Defendants' Joint Motion For Summary Judgment On Ground That Statutes Of Limitations Bar The Action
.e
1 was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. [SMF 118]. Plaintiff then took no steps to file a lawsuit, and
2 indeed admitted she "wasn't particularly thinking about it''. until January, 2009 when plaintiff was
3 contacted by an attorney who encouraged her to file a lawsuit, after which she "then connected
4 up" with Mr. Van Sickle, the lawyer who ultimately filed her suit. [SMF 119]. Yet plaintiff
5 continued to delay retaining an attorney and filing a suit until April, 2009. Such a delay is
6 unreasonable as a matter of law and itself requires rejection of her attempt to invoke equitable
7 estoppel. "If there is still ample time to institute the action within the statutory period after the
8 circumstances inducing delay have ceased to operate, the plaintiff who failed to do so cannot claim
9 an estoppel." Mills, 108 Cal App 4th at 655-56 (citing Lobrovich v. Georgison, 144 Cal. App. 2d
10 567 (1956) (unexplained delay of 5 weeks precludes invocation of estoppel or tolling) and Santee
11 v. Santa Clara County Office of Educ., 220 Cal. App. 3d 702 (1990) (same; 8 weeks)).
12 IV. CONCLUSION
13 For the reasons stated, the Court should issue an order granting defendants' motion for
14 summary judgment and dismissing the action in its entirety, with prejudice.
15
16
Dated: October 25, 2012
JEFFER MANGELS BUTLER & MITCHELL
17
LLP
18
19
MATTHE D. HIN
21
Attorneys for DEFENDANT RELIGIOUS
22 TECHNOLOGY CENTER
Dated: October 25, 2012
KENDALL BRILL & KLIEGER LLP
-and-
RABINOWITZ, BOUDIN, STANDARD,
KRINSKY & LIEBERMAN, LLP
By7iJ)J2 /=k
BERTRiiEIXLER
Attorneys for DEFENDANT CHURCH OF
SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL
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PRINTED ON-'"'-
PROOF OF SERVICE BY MAIL AND ELECTRONIC SERVICE
Laura Ann DeCrescenw (aka Laura A. Dieckman) v. Church of Scientology International, et al.
LASC Case No. BC 411018
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, CITY AND COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
I am employed in the City and County of Los Angeles, State of California. I am over the
affie of 18 and not a party to the within action; my business address is: 1900 A venue of the Stars,
7 Floor, Los Angeles, California 90067.
On October 25, 2012 I served the document(s) described as DEFENDANTS' JOINT
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON GROUND THAT STATUTES OF
LIMITATIONS BAR THE ACTION in this action by placing true copies thereof enclosed in
sealed envelopes addressed as follows:
SEE ATTACHED SERVICE LIST
IZ! (BY MAIL) I am "readily familiar" with the firm's practice for collection and processing
correspondence for mailing. Under that practice it would be deposited with the U.S. Postal
Service on that same day with postage thereon fully prepaid at Los Angeles, California in
the ordinary course of business. I am aware that on motion of the party served, service is
presumed invalid if postal cancellation date or postage meter date is more than one day after
date of deposit for mailing in affidavit.
D (BY PERSONAL SERVICE) I delivered such envelope by hand to the addressees.
D (BY OVERNIGHT DELIVERY) [as indicated on Service List] I caused said envelope(s) to
be delivered overnight via an overnight. delivery service in lieu of delivery by mail to the
addressee( s ).
0 (BY ELECTRONIC SERVICE) [as indicated on Service List] On, May 4, 2012
I transmitted the aforementioned document(s) directly, through an agent, or through a
designated electronic filing service provider to the aforementioned electronic notification
address( es). The transmission originated from my electronic notification address, which is
slc@jmbm.com, and was reported as complete and without error. Pursuant to Rule
2.260(±)(4), I will maintain a printed form of this document bearing my original signature
and will make the document available for inspection and copying on the request of the court
or any party to the action or proceeding in which it is filed, in the manner provided in rule
2.257(a).
Executed on October 25, 2012 at Los Angeles, California.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the
above is true and correct .----· ---...
LA 6917542vl
PROOF OF SERVICE
1 SERVICE LIST
Laura Ann DeCrescenzo (aka Laura A. Dieckman) v. Church of Scientology International, et al.
2 LASC Case No. BC 411018
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,,.-..::.
PRINTED ON !"""''·
RECYCLED PA.PER
~ ·-·
Barry L. Van Sickle
BARRY VAN SICKLE LAW OFFICES
1079 Sunrise Avenue, Suite B-315
Roseville, CA 95661
Raphael Metzger, Esq.
METZGER LAW GROUP, PLC
401 E. Ocean Blvd., Suite 800
Long Beach, CA 90802
Bert Deixler
KENDALL BRILL & KLIEGER
10100 Santa Monica Blvd, Ste. 1725
Los Angeles, CA 90067
John P. Blumberg ·
Sindee M. Smolowitz
BLUMBERG LAW CORPORATION
444 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 1500
Long Be.ach, CA 90802-4523
LA 6917542vl
Counsel for Plaintiff
LAURA ANN DECRESCENZO
Telephone: 916.549.8784
Email: barryvansickle@comcast.net
Counsel for Plaintiff
LAURA ANN DECRESCENZO
Telephone: 562.437.4499
Email: rmetzger@toxictorts.com
Counsel for Defendant CHURCH OF
SCIENTOLOGY INTERN A TI ON AL
Telephone: 310.556.2700
Facsimile: 310.556.2705
Email: cdavidson@kbkfirm.com
bdeixler@kbkfirm.com
Counsel for Plaintiff
LAURA ANN DECRESCENZO
Telephone: 562.432.0107
Facsimile: 562.437.0403
Email: Advocates@Blumberglaw.com
- 2 - PROOF OF SERVICE

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