When I was leaving the CofS, a mission from the RTC was sent to Denver to "handle" me. This confrontation was described in Part 17 of the New Regime Takeover series. I told the missionaires that I would be starting an independent center in Denver. Right after that meeting, I left the CofS.
The next action of the RTC was to initiate an attack using Scientologists still in the CofS who were on our Book One correspondence course. These Scientologists were ordered to contact me, demanding that I refund them for the course. We had people from all over the US and Canada on our course. Probably, because Denver was where I was located, the RTC used this area to test their initiative.
To begin with, students called me demanding that I refund them for the course. During the breaks when these students were on course at the local org and missions, they would call me, one after the other, with their refund requests. Since I had never promised a refund, I told each student that I would not return money for a course that they had started. Next, I began receiving nasty, registered letters from the students stating that I must refund their money immediately. I just filed the letters without responding.
The RTC's next action was to have the individual students take me to small claims court to get their money back. I was informed by mail by my city's small claims division that four or five people had initiated cases against me. I assumed that, once again, the RTC was testing the water with these few court cases. If successful, they would probably have the rest of the students take me to court. Not only would they tie me up in small claims court suits, but also, if I lost, I would be ruined financially. Very concerned, I went to my lawyer for advice.
My lawyer informed me that attorneys were not allowed in small claims court. He went on to say that if I wanted him involved in a court proceeding, that I would have to have the cases kicked up to county court. However, he strongly cautioned me against going this route. He said that this was probably just what the CofS wanted me to do. In addition to the high legal fees, if the case went in their favor, it could set a precedent for future refund claims. In a small claims case, no precedent can be set for future legal claims. His advice was to leave the cases where they were and take my chances. He would advise me on how to handle myself in the proceedings, which would cost me very little in legal fees. I took his advice.
The lawyer's main suggestion was that I deal with each case from strictly a business owner's point of view, and not mention anything about Scientology or the CofS. If anything were to be brought up about Scientology or the CofS, it would be the plaintiffs who would do it. Such arguments would probably be irrelevant to the proceedings and make the plaintiffs look bad.
I wrote a statement in which I said that the plaintiff had paid for and started a correspondence course. I had continued to provide supervision by mail, but it was up to the student to send in his lessons. If the student failed to send in his lessons, that was his decision. I was fulfilling my part of the bargain and would continue to deliver the course if the student wished to continue. There was more written, but this was the gist of the statement.
I was nervous going into the first case. At the start of the proceedings, I handed the judge my written statement. The judge read the statement and then called on the plaintiff to make his case. The student got up and made the argument that when he started the course, I was a member in good standing with the CofS. Now that I was declared, he could no longer participate in a course delivered by a squirrel because this was against his religion. He, therefore, wanted his money back. Things went back and forth for a short time, with the student making a fool of himself and me calmly taking the position of a businessman.
It didn't take long for the judge to render his decision. He stated that all the information about Scientology and the CofS was irrelevant. Furthermore, he said that there was an apparent value in my service when the student started the course, and that that value would not change just because I was no longer a member of the CofS. He found the plaintiff's arguments completely without merit, and found in my favor, without even a partial refund required from me. The student and the Scientologists who had accompanied him in court were visibly shaken.
Over the next couple of weeks, there were two or three more similar cases. Each one was in front of the same judge. Since a win in small claims does not set a precedent for future cases, the judge just handled each case on its' own merit. But each case pretty much went the same way. I would start by handing the judge the identical written statement. The student would get up and basically make the same stupid argument. The judge would make a similar statement in his ruling and find completely in my favor.
Going into the final case that had been filed, I was feeling extremely confident and cocky. But to my surprise, this case was presented differently. The plaintiffs were a couple who had purchased the course almost a year prior. Accompanying them was the ethics officer from the local org. After I had submitted my usual written statement, the couple presented the judge with couple of feet of documents, all labeled as specific exhibits. The primary exhibits were a set of docs from me to re-incorporate my company, Survival Services, as a Dianetics Counseling Group. I had forgotten all about these documents!
Two years prior, in order to keep the Guardians Office off my back, I had agreed to re-incorporate my company as a Dianetics Counseling Group. I had my lawyer draw up the papers and had sent them to GO Worldwide for their approval. The docs, probably being lost up lines, were never sent back to me. This incident was described in Part 7 of my New Regime Takeover series.
Up until this point in the small claims cases, I had maintained a stance of a businessman, rejecting any connection with the CofS as irrelevant to the proceedings. But the incorporation documents showed my intention to place what I had been doing under the CofS. There were also other exhibits showing a connection to the CofS and my Book One program, including dispatches I had sent to Diana Hubbard. These plaintiffs had made good arguments, unlike the previous ones. This couple had obviously been well briefed. As I was surprised by the whole affair, my arguments clearly demonstrated that I was completely unprepared for their presentation. After arguments were made, the judge wanted to take some time to look over the exhibits before ruling. He took maybe fifteen minutes to scan through the material. During this time I was quite nervous, while the plaintiffs and ethics officer sat smiling and looking very confident. When finished, the judge announced that he was ready to make a ruling in the case.
The judge made a lengthy summation before rendering his decision. He said that the exhibits obviously demonstrated an extensive working relationship between me and the CofS, also showing my intention of incorporating my business under them. But since the docs were never filed, the legal connection between us never occurred. He made the analogy of Jell-O powder and water. The possibility for Jell-O is there, but without mixing the two, Jell-O is never made.
He went on to compare this case to a man who buys a lawnmower that he later wants to return. There's nothing wrong with the lawnmower, but the man wants his money back because the salesman was a Buddhist or a Jew. He went on to talk about religious freedom in this country. By the end of his summation, the judge had made the plaintiffs and CofS look like bigots.
During the judge's summation, you couldn't hear a pin drop in the courtroom. Everyone there was listening intently to what he had to say. When the judge gave his ruling in my favor, the entire courtroom (except for the CofS members, of course) burst into an enthusiastic applause that went on for a few minutes.
Afterwards, the court recorder came up to me and asked if I wanted a taped recording of the summation. Excitedly, she told me that she had never seen that judge so enthusiastic about a small claims case and that she had never heard him give a summation like that in small claims. As I left the courtroom, people who were not even Scientologists came up to congratulate me.
On my way out of the courthouse I saw the CofS members slinking away with their heads down. I went up to the ethics officer and put my arm around his shoulders and said, "Now that's a great example of our legal system at work!" Looking completely devastated, he slowly walked away without saying a word.
The judge's summation and final ruling put an end to any further refund demands from members of the CofS.