Wien has filed a civil lawsuit against the Spindale-based church and eight of its members including its leaders and co-founder Jane Whaley. She is seeking approximately $2.4 million in damages for what Wien says were years of physical and emotional abuse while she was a member of the church.
Peter Lane and Ed Hensley, who represent Wien, were seeking a protective order to limit discovery because of what they see as potentially excessive requests for information and access to witnesses.
They also sought a motion to strike a portion of discovery related to a physician of Wien’s and sanctions related to alleged ex parte conversations with that physician.
Judge James Downs did not rule on the protective order calling the request “premature” and “far-fetched.”
Not ruling on the order will allow Lane and Hensley to request the order again at a later date.
WOFF attorney John Gresham said he was happy with the decisions Downs made.
“We were please to have this behind us and ready to move forward with the case,” he said.
Downs denied the request to limit any evidence the WOFF may have gathered from what Hensley characterized an improper conversation with Dr. Robert Ford by Gresham.
Downs said the request for sanctions related to a conversation with Dr. Ford was also premature since any evidence related to a conversation with Dr. Ford has yet to be admitted and it admissibility could only be assessed at that time.
Hensley said the conversation was improper because it was not done through a formal subpoena.
WOFF attorney Tom Hix responded by saying the conversation was related to a criminal matter involving Wien and Whaley in which Dr. Ford testified and the rules for contact are different in criminal proceedings.
Gresham spoke with Dr. Ford for about 15 minutes the week before Whaley was convicted of a misdemeanor assault on Wien.
Lane said he and Hensley were pleased that the door was left open for future action on limiting discovery.
“It was basically putting them on notice,” said Lane about the attempt to limit the actions of the WOFF attorneys, of which there are six.
Hensley said in court that the WOFF attorneys are going to excessive lengths to gather information for the civil case noting that they have listed 45 people they may subpoena, including Hensley, Lane and Lane’s wife, Katrina.
Wien has already been deposed for 15 hours over two days and the WOFF attorneys requested at least three more days of deposition.
“We’d be taking depositions for the next five years if this goes on,” Hensley told the judge.
Gresham, who is based in Charlotte, handled the majority of the defense’s response Monday. He said that because of the complexity of the case and the amount of money being sought by Wien that he reserved the right to subpoena whomever he needed to to put together a defense, including Lane.
He said most of the potential witnesses were named by Wien herself during her deposition.
Gresham argued that Lane may be called as a witness because of his presence at an interview Wien gave to the television program Inside Edition. Gresham questioned Lane’s payments for plane tickets for Wien and her husband from Sweden and for the use of Lane’s lake house and car.
Lane said Wien is indigent and that attorneys are allowed to provide limited support to indigent clients.
Gresham said that none of the proposed 45 witnesses had been formally subpoenaed, a fact Downs used in making his ruling.
Downs refused to make a ruling based on something the WOFF attorneys might do.
Though Downs did add the comment that what the WOFF attorneys were contemplating “sounds a bit lengthy and a bit nutty.”
WOFF attorneys have stated the goal of the civil suit is to bankrupt the church, which Hensley denied.
Downs commented that if the church has hired six attorneys and plans to depose 45 witnesses that in itself would go a long way toward bankrupting the church.
WOFF attorneys filed a written response Friday to the Lane and Hensley’s motions.
The response states that the purpose of Wien’s suit is to “bankrupt the defendant and intended to destroy the Church.”
WOFF is also being represented by David Goldstein of New York, Frank Jackson of Hendersonville, and Douglas Martin of Charlotte.
Gresham and Goldstein are the lead attorneys in WOFFs recently filed federal law suit against the Rutherford County Department of Social Services.
That suit alleges, among other things, that the DSS violated WOFF member’s Constitutional right to freedom of religion.