TAMPA – In a rare clash between courts, a federal judge today said he will order a state judge not to interfere with a lawyer’s handling of a federal case involving the Church of Scientology.
Merryday told Scientology attorneys they “have forced my hand on this issue.”
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The order is the latest chapter in a years-long animus between the church and Dandar, one of its most persistent adversaries.
The federal lawsuit alleges Scientologists, including Brennan’s father, took Brennan’s antidepressant prescription from him and gave him access to a loaded gun.
The church says Brennan’s suicide was unprovoked. A Clearwater police investigation concluded no one else was responsible for his suicide.
Dandar also represented the relatives of Scientologist Lisa McPherson in their wrongful death lawsuit against the church. McPherson died in 1995 after 17 days of care by Scientology staffers in Clearwater.
That lawsuit was settled in 2004 but only after years of courtroom conflict. Scientology lawyers say the deal included a secret agreement by Dandar not to sue the church again.
In a series of sealed pleadings and hearings, Scientology lawyers asked Pinellas County Senior Circuit Judge Robert Beach to enforce the agreement. Beach ordered Dandar to withdraw from the Brennan case.
Dandar filed an “involuntary” motion asking Merryday to allow him to withdraw but contended Beach didn’t have the authority to order him to withdraw. He attached a declaration from Brennan’s mother stating she couldn’t find another lawyer to represent her.
Merryday denied Dandar’s motion.
Dandar told Merryday that Beach was poised to impose sanctions against him Friday, including a daily fine of $1,000 and a judgment of more than $130,000 to be paid immediately to the church.
Dandar said Beach also was considering suspending his law license.
Federal judge tells Pinellas judge to back off in Scientology lawsuit
But in a stinging 29-page order, Merryday questioned the “stunning severity” of the fine and said Beach overstepped his authority. He “permanently enjoined” Beach, the church or anyone else from pursuing the matter, saying they couldn’t even hold another hearing on it.
The order frees Dandar to continue representing the estate of Kyle T. Brennan in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the church’s Clearwater entity, the Flag Service Organization. The lawsuit contends that Brennan’s apparent suicide was the result of improper actions by his Scientologist father and two other church members. It alleges the father, Thomas Brennan, hid his son’s antidepression prescription with the help and advice of Denise Gentile, the sister of Scientology’s worldwide leader David Miscavige. A trial is scheduled for December.
In our opinion Scientology’s lengthy and ongoing record of unethical tactics used against former members, critics, members of the media, psychiatrists and legal professonals demonstrate that the movement is not a benign religion, but rather a destructive cult.
See also: Scientology associated deaths