Hearing regarding an order to show cause why Robert Minton should not be held in contempt

23 August 2001


				
1		IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE
	SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR
2		PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA
3		CASE NO. 00-002750-CI-20
4					
5	CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY FLAG SERVICE		
	ORGANIZATION, INC.,
6	Plaintiff,	
	7	VS.		
	8	DELL LIEBREICH, Individually and			
	9	as Personal Representative of the
		Estate of Lisa McPherson and
	10	KENNAN G. DANDAR,
	11	Defendants.				
	12			
13	BEFORE:	HONORABLE W. DOUGLAS BAIRD
14	PLACE:	Pinellas County Courthouse
		315 Court Street North
15		Clear water, Florida
16 	DATE:	August 23, 2001
17	TIME:	1:00 - 1:30 p.m.			
18	REPORTED BY:	TONYA H. MAGEE, RPR
		Court Reporter and Notary Public
19		State of Florida at Large
20
21	HEARING 	
22
		Pages 
1 - 14
23
	ROBERT A. DEMPSTER & ASSOCIATES
24	COURT REPORTERS
	P.O. BOX 35	
25	CLEARWATER, FLORIDA 34618-0035
	(727) 443-0992



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	1	A P P E A R A N C E S:
	2
	3	F. WALLACE POPE, JR., ESQUIRE		
		Johnson, Blakely, Pope,
	4		Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, P.A.
		Post Office Box 1388
	5	Clearwater, Florida 33757
	6
		SAMUEL D. ROSEN, ESQUIRE (Appearing telephonically)
	7	Paul, Hastings, Jonfsky & Walker, P.A.
		75 East 55th Street			
	8	New York City, New York 10022
	9	Attorneys for the Plaintiff.
	10
		JOHN MERRETT, ESQUIRE
	11	11250 St. Augustine Road
		Suite 15-393
	12	Jacksonville, Florida	32257-1147
	13	Attorney for Robert Minton.
	14				
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1		P R 0 C E E D I N G S
2	THE COURT: All right. We are waiting a call
3 from Mr. Rosen. Okay. Afternoon. 
4		MR. ROSEN:	Good afternoon, Your Honor.
5		THE COURT:	Okay. We are here regarding an
6	order to show cause why Robert Minton should not be
7  held in contempt for his failure to appear for
8	deposition on August 3rd. Will you be arguing
9 that?
	10			MR. POPE: I will be arguing that, Your Honor.
	11		May I?
	12			THE COURT: Please.
	13			MR. POPE: May it please the Court. We are
	14		here today really on a procedural motion, and that
	15		is why you should issue an order for failure to
	16		show cause as to why Mr. Minton should not be held
	17		in contempt for failure to participate in a
	18		deposition that he was ordered to do so on
	19		August 3, 2001.	
20    Let me just briefly set the stage here with
21	where we are in our efforts to have Mr. Minton's
22	deposition taken. We have been trying, fairly
23	earnestly, since February of this year, the last
24	seven months, to take Mr. Minton's deposition in.
25	this case. We issued our first two subpoenas that

1		are parleying this thing. We issued our first
						
	2		subpoena on February 9, setting him for deposition
	3		on March 1. Mr. Minton moved to quash that
	4		subpoena and to sanction me.  The Court denied that	
	5		motion on February 28, leaving the March 1 date
6	   valid.	
7			On March the 5th, the Court entered an order
	8		granting our motion to compel the deposition. On
	9	March the 6th, Mr. Minton filed on appeal the order
	10		denying the motion to quash. On June the 6th, we
	11		moved to dismiss the appeal as moot because, in the
	12		meantime, we served a second subpoena as to which
	13		that objection did not apply. On June 14, this
	14		Court basically found Mr. Minton in contempt
	15		regarding subpoena number one, ordered him to
	16		appear, no later than 30 days from the order, to
	17		comply with the subpoena.
	18			On June the 28, the appellate court ordered
	19		Mr. Minton to respond to the motion to dismiss it	
	20		as moot within 15 days. He never has responded,
	21		but the court is in recess and nothing has happened	
	22		with respect to that particular motion. On July
	23		11, the appellate court granted Mr. Minton's
	24		emergency motion to stay your June 14 contempt	
	25		order regarding subpoena number one. That's where

5 
 
1   things stand right now. 
	2		Subpoena number two was issued May 22 of this
	3	year.	We served him with that second subpoena on
	4	May the 24th. He moved to quash or modify, but not
	5	for the same reason as with subpoena number one.
	6	June 6, this Court ordered Mr. Minton to appear for
	7	deposition by June 29. No deposition of Mr. Minton
	8	occurred June 29.
	9		On July 25, with regard to this subpoena, this
	10	second subpoena, the Court found in effect
	11	Mr. Minton in contempt and ordered Mr. Minton's
	12	deposition to proceed on August 3 at 9:30 a.m. On
	13	August the 3rd, Mr. Minton fails to appear. No
	14	notice is given to counsel. Mr. Rosen flies down.
	15	There is a certificate on file with the Court of
	16	non-appearance. And these are the reasons that
	17	Mr. Merrett advanced for his non-appearance:
	18	"Mr. Minton was prepared to come even to the point
	19	of having airline reservations. At some point,
	20	apparently yesterday, he became aware that
	21	Scientology obtained and posted on the internet
	22	fairly detailed information about a mental health
	23	professional that treated not only him, but his
	24	wife in the past. As a result of that, his mental
25      therapist has informed me that it is not possible 
1   for him to give a deposition at this point because
	2	the likelihood is that it would have a disastrous
	3	affect on his mental health and will result in
	4	immediate hospitalization. We need to reschedule
	5	this. Had the posting been made earlier in the
	6	week, then we would have known in advance, but we
	7	did not know he was not going to be here until
	8	really late last night. We were trying to book him
	9	on a flight, but in any event that's why he is not
	10	here."
	11		Mr. Merrett didn't reveal who this therapist
	12	is, and to this day we don't know who this
	13	therapist is. We filed a motion to show cause in
	14	the court and set this matter for hearing.
	15	Mr. Minton has filed -- and I got it right about
	16	noontime today. I was served with a stack of
	17	papers, which is a broadside attack on Scientology
	18	for various matters that occurred 30 years ago and
	19	in between then and now. Seems to me that, you
	20	know, it's sort of -- if you remember Flip Wilson
	21	and his character Geraldine, it's
	22	the-Devil-made-me-do-it defense, because the great
	23	monster here sabotaged me and it's impaired my
	24	mental health.
	25		This is not the time to decide the merits.

	


1	The issue is should the Court put him to his proof
2	as to why he didn't appear. So we would ask the
3	Court for an order to show cause.
4    MR. MERRETT: Your Honor, in brief response, a
5    couple corrections with respect to the time line as
6	   proposed by Mr. Pope	The March 1 date on the
	7	original subpoena actually had been cancelled
	8	between the parties well before the March -
	9		THE COURT: Well, I'm not sure that subpoena
	10	number one is really at issue here at this point.
11   MR. MERRETT: With respect to subpoena number, 
12	two, the deposition was ordered for by the Court,
13	and it is correct that Mr. Minton didn't appear,
14	but the Court to cite the authorities in response,
15   and I give the Court a copy of that criminal
16	contempt, adheres exclusively to activities
17	deliberately undertaken to dissipate the order of
18	the Court.
19		What I have done is not attempting to sabotage
20	the Court or anybody else, and I will be blunt, a
21	great deal of time would be wasted on the
22	declarations regarding an order to show cause. We
23	have laid out for you what happened. We have
24	Mr. Minton's affidavit. We have Miss Brook's
25	affidavit. We have the outrageous posting that was

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1   put on the internet. We have flyers that were put
2   on Mr. Minton's daughter's doorstep. All of this
	3	happened on the day before he was supposed to come
	4	to the deposition.
	5		We've also got detailed in the affidavit that
	6	the last time he was set for deposition in the
	7	death case, somebody jumped on him and sent him to
	8	the hospital the Saturday before he was supposed to
	9	appear for the deposition, with the same results.
	10	Additionally, you have detailed that it's
11   Scientology's principle of making criminals -- of
12	seeking criminal convictions of anybody who opposes
13	them. And what you have here, you are looking at
14	the timing of the flyers, the timing of the posting
15	on the internet and where they were directed at
16	Mr. Minton and his family, his wife and kids who
17	have nothing to do with this. It is obvious that
18	the purpose was to induce this situation.
19		What I would suggest to you with regard to
20	taking the deposition are one, two, three, four -
21	six dates, and four of them are much more
22	convenient to Mr. Rosen. The week of September 10
23	in Boston, two dates the week of -- well, the 17
24	and 19 of September. And assuming that Scientology
25	is able to refrain from other personal attacks on

1   Mr. Minton's family between now and then, there
	2		shouldn't be any problem.
	3			Given the clear unequivocal and uncontroverted
	4		behavior of Scientology, which could only be aimed
	S		at producing the state of mind, a state of outrage
	6		and distress that would make it impossible to
	7		appear, else that, there is no reason we will not
	8		proceed. He had airline reservations and they were
	9		repeatedly changed. They kept going up in
10	   anticipation that he was going to be able to come
11	   	down and come here for deposition. But with this
	12		attack being one of many, many attacks, it simply
	13		wasn't possible.
	14			In other words, Judge, I don't think that
	15		either the Court or the parties or counsel, given
	16		availability of these alternate dates, most of
	17		which have the greater advantage to the attorney
	18		who's been hired by Scientology, the lead attorney,
	19		Mr. Rosen, I don't think that looking at everything
	20		that you have in front of you on a prima facie
	21		basis, the reason to show cause, I don't think that
	22		looking at it from a wider perspective that the
	23		reason -- given the reason for Mr. Minton's
	24		non-appearance is clearly not, what one judge in
	25		Jacksonville described, contempt. You can do it
					

10 

	1		however you want to, but it does not amount to
	2		thumbing your nose at the Court. That's more a
	3		precise legal description of what we have.	
	4			As I say, we have these dates. Some of them
	5		are calculated specifically for the convenience to
	6		Mr. Rosen. I don't think that based on a prima
	7		facie case, Mr. Minton is -thumbing his nose at this
	8		Court, but rather that Scientology is succeeding in
	9	another attempt. However, if they stick with the
	10		questions that have to do with the subject matter
12	of this case, it will be about a 45 minute
12	deposition.
13		MR. ROSEN: Your Honor, this is Mr. Rosen.
14	May I be heard from?
15		THE COURT: Are you done?
16		MR. MERRETT: I think both of these lawyers
17	represent the same parties.
18		THE COURT: He asked if he could be heard. Do
19	you have an objection to him being heard?
20		MR. MERRETT: I'm just curious as to why
21	Scientology is -
22		THE COURT: You mentioned some things about
23	Mr. Rosen. He may have something to say about
24	that. What is it, Mr. Rosen?
25		MR. ROSEN: Your Honor, just a couple points

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1	to respond to what Mr. Merrett said. First of all
2	there is no uncontroverted evidence of what
3	Mr. Merrett presents. Scientology never posted
4	anything with respect to Mr. Minton's mental health
5	or anything else. The proposition that they did is
	6		something that is not only controverted, but it is
	7		to which there is no evidence.
	8			Mr. Merrett says this is no big deal, we'll
	9		just reschedule the deposition. I got a letter
	10		from him offering to schedule the deposition on
	11		four different dates in Boston. This may be
	12		dejavous all over again, but he originally asked
	13		you, Your Honor, to require that the deposition be
	14		in Boston on the grounds that Mr. Minton
	15		infrequently comes to the state of Florida. You
	16		denied that.
17  The second request was, well, Judge, at least
18	make them pay for Mr. Minton to come to Florida,
19	and you denied that one twice. And now Mr. Minton -
20.  has taken to writing me a letter proposing dates in
21	Boston. That's just unacceptable. We are just
22	rearguing an issue that has previously been
23	decided. And the last point I have is this: In my
24	mind there is no possibility that if we reschedule .
25	this deposition, it would occur, and the reason I

 
1   say that is not only because of the history before
2	you, but we have a trial history with Mr. Merrett
3	in the federal court in Tampa in which he
4	represents the Lisa McPherson Trust, and we know
5	the modus operandi. What happens is the notice of
	6		contempt, then failure to appear for the deposition
	7		to the DCA of the 11th Circuit in the Tampa case
	8		seeking a stay in the deposition. If the stay is
	9	denied, you have to go to deposition. The stay was
	10		denied.
	11			And I will tell you one deposition that
	12		Mr. Merrett did. He walked into the deposition
13   with a federal court order. He went into the
14	deposition with his lawyer and said, we have
15   complied. The order said says we have to appear.
16	The order doesn't say we have to answer questions.
17	It says we have to appear. There is actually a
18	motion for contempt pending against him before
19	Judge Lusaria in Tampa.
20		This deposition is not going to happen. I
21	think I said that to you a long time ago, Your
22	Honor. I predicted that was going to be the case.
23   The history of it bears it out. I'm not interested
24	in Mr. Merrett or an affidavit as to the excuse.
25   If there is a truth to this theory about why his 

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	1		client did not appear on August 3rd, let his client
	2		take the stand and tell the story in front of you.
	3		Give us a chance to cross-examine his client.
	4			And what I ask you to do is this. Simply set
	5		a date for an evidentiary hearing on contempt. If
	6		you find contempt and, you disbelieve the story, as
	7		I think you are going to when you hear this out of
	8		the mouth of the witnesses opposed to the mouth the
	9		camel. I'm going to ask you to for an evidentiary
	10		hearing. That's the only way we can get this
	11		deposition. 
	12			THE COURT: Yeah, I think it's appropriate to
13   go ahead and have an evidentiary hearing and some
14	testimony and some cross-examination. I think I
15   will consider that best. So if you want to prepare
16	an order, get some time and we will have an order
17	to show cause and Mr. Minton can appear. Okay.
18	Thank you.
19		THEREUPON, the hearing concluded at 1:30 p.m.

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1		REPORTER'S HEARING CERTIFICATE
2	STATE OF FLORIDA	)
3	COUNTY OF PINELLAS )

9

5		I, TONYA HORNSBY-MAGEE, Registered Professional
6	Reporter, certify that I was authorized to and did
7	stenographically report the hearing before the
8   Honorable W. Douglas Baird; and that the transcript
9	is a true and complete record of my stenographic notes.
10
11		I FURTHER CERTIFY that I am not a relative,
12	employee, attorney, or counsel of any of the parties,
13	nor relative or employee of such attorney or counsel,
14	nor financially interested in the outcome of the
15	foregoing action.
16
17		Dated this 27th day of August, 2001, at Clearwater,
18	Pinellas County, Florida.
19
20
21
22	T TONYA HORNSBY -MAGEE RPR
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To Life and Death of Lisa McPherson