Feb 4, 2016

Attorneys in Scientology Lawsuit Fired

Courthouse News Service
February 03, 2016

AUSTIN (CN) - A Texas woman embroiled in a legal battle against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige fired her attorneys on Friday "without cause."

Monique Rathbun's former attorneys filed the unopposed motion for withdrawal of counsel at the Texas Supreme Court, where her harassment claim is pending appeal from the church.

The 6-page document provides few details. Leslie Sara Hyman, one of Rathbun's former attorneys, based in San Antonio, declined to comment on the decision.
"All I can share is what is in the motion," Hyman said. "Mrs. Rathbun discharged her lawyers without cause, so we are withdrawing."

Rathbun could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Pending appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, Rathbun's case against the church and some of its top officials appeared to be almost ready for trial after months of legal wrangling. Her attorneys successfully fought a motion to dismiss under Texas' anti-SLAPP statute, and a state appellate court ruled in November that the church's monitoring of Rathbun is not protected by free speech.

Rathbun took the church to court in 2013 when she claimed that the Scientologists had mounted a three-year campaign of "ruthlessly aggressive misconduct" against her as she and her husband sought seclusion in the Texas Hill Country.

She said it all started after her husband, Marty Rathbun, fled the church in 2004, after 27 years on the inside. He was known as Scientology's number two executive, behind Miscavige, according to court records.

Her husband denounced Miscavige's "criminal mistreatment of Scientology clergy," according to the original complaint in 2009. He was most recently featured in HBO's 2015 documentary "Going Clear," which explores the controversial church and claims made by Rathbun's husband and other former members.

The Rathbuns met in 2005 and married in 2010. Rathbun says she has never been a member of the church and did not join her husband in speaking out about Scientology issues.

In Rathbun's litany of complaints against the church, she says she has been "harassed, insulted, surveilled, photographed, videotaped, defamed, and humiliated to such a degree as to shock the conscience of any decent, law-abiding person."

She also says she has been subjected to "aggressive" intimidation.

The case has wound its way from Comal County Court to Texas' Third Court of Appeals in Austin, where the church's attempt to throw out the lawsuit on the basis of free speech was rejected. The church appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Its petition for review is due Feb. 19.
Rathbun has not yet filed notice of new counsel.


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