Debbie Cook's Motion Denied: Scientology's Restraining Order Remains in Place Until Thursday Hearing
As we reported yesterday, Debbie Cook, who is being sued by the Church of Scientology for speaking out to her fellow church members in a New Year's Eve e-mail, filed a motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order so broad, it prevented her from hiring an attorney (she hired one anyway) or talking about the case with her husband, who is also being sued.
Judge Janet Littlejohn
After a hearing this morning, however, Texas 150th District Court Judge Janet P. Littlejohn denied Cook's motion and continued matters until Thursday, when the restraining order will run out and there will be a hearing to determine if the same restrictions on Cook's rights will become a temporary injunction that could last the duration of the case.
Littlejohn's clerk, Shirley Myers, confirmed to me that Cook's motion had been denied, but she added that another judge, and not necessarily Littlejohn, will preside over Thursday's hearing, when the real fireworks in this case should begin.
As Cook's attorney's Ray Jeffrey told me yesterday, it is in that hearing that he plans to introduce evidence of how Cook was treated in the church she gave so many years -- and we have already published some harrowing examples of that.
"We'll get into some of her experiences, which are beyond the pale of what a human being should endure," Jeffrey said yesterday.
As we write this, we hear that Jeffrey and Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten are huddling in a strategy meeting. If we can get anything from Jeffrey soon, we'll add to this post.
(Yesterday, I left a message for Scientology's San Antonio attorney, George Spencer, but I haven't heard back from him.)
UPDATE: The San Antonio Express-News had reporter John MacCormack at the hearing, and he filed this description of how things went down at the hearing...
Judge Janet Littlejohn declined to lift a temporary restraining order after being assured it will not cripple the couple's defense.
"There is no reason you cannot accumulate evidence and talk to witnesses for trial next week," she told Cook's lawyer, Ray Jeffrey.
"Other than that, they are restrained by the order," she added.
Jeffrey had argued unsuccessfully that the church cannot muzzle Cook and Baumgarten, without proving specific damages, regardless of any agreements they signed.
"Prior restraint of speech is presumptively unconstitutional," he argued.
"She didn't defame anyone. She sent out a message that was laudatory to Scientology and urged Scientologists to remain true to their faith," he added.
MacCormack also got a response from church spokeswoman Karin Pouw, and even for Karin, this one was really off the charts:
In response to e-mailed questions sent Friday, church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said the dispute is no more than "a breach-of-contract case."
"As is common with defendants in such cases, Debbie Cook wants to divert attention away from her lack of compliance with the terms she voluntarily agreed to in signing the contract," she added.
Pouw disputed others who described Cook as a longtime, important church leader, asserting she had "never held a senior management position."
"She has not attended church in years and has become a squirrel. A squirrel is someone who alters Scientology Scripture; a heretic," she added.
It's a shame MacCormack didn't immediately point out that as Captain FSO for 17 years, Cook had actually been the equivalent of CEO of Scientology's spiritual mecca, the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Florida, and to this day is a somewhat legendary figure in the church. In fact, it's her status as a major figure in Scientology that made her e-mail such a devastating one. (MacCormack's piece is otherwise an excellent introduction to the case for Texas readers.)
As for calling people squirrels, we wonder how Karin didn't get an "apostate" in there somewhere.
2nd UPDATE: Marty Rathbun, who was in the courtroom, has more at his blog...
Miscavige's (FSO's) counsel claimed not to have any intention of using the temporary injunction to hinder Debbie and Wayne's defense. Then Mr Jeffrey pulled out the letter Miscavige's boys faxed to Jeffrey the day before last. The letter threatened the Baumgartens with a motion to have the court hold them in contempt. For what? Allegedly conferring with her legal team consultants and witnesses, namely yours truly and Mike Rinder.
The judge denied the motion to dissolve only after being assured by Miscavige's boys that they would drop their attempts to use the court's order to obstruct Debbie and Wayne's defense preparation.
Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice...
Also, please see our primer, "What is Scientology?"
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
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