Church of Scientology of California v. Linberg

Decision Date14 December 1981
Docket NumberNo. CV77-2654-Kn.,CV77-2654-Kn.
Citation529 F. Supp. 945
PartiesCHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff, v. Elmer F. LINBERG, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California



Howard J. Stechel, Beverly Hills, Cal., for plaintiff.

James Stotter, II, Asst. U. S. Atty., Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants.


KENYON, District Judge.

Plaintiff in this action seeks damages and an injunction pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), for alleged violations of its First and Fourth Amendment rights in connection with an extensive search and seizure operation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Defendants, 20 agents and former FBI agents and the Department of Justice,1 have filed motions to dismiss the present complaint on numerous grounds. The court, as indicated in its order entered June 23, 1981, denies the motions in their entirety with the exception of striking several of the provisions plaintiff has offered as a basis for jurisdiction and its constitutional claims.

In the early morning of July 8, 1977, more than 150 FBI agents and other personnel, authorized by virtually identical warrants, entered three facilities of the Church of Scientology. One was the site of the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C., and the others were the Los Angeles premises of plaintiff, the Church of Scientology of California (hereinafter referred to as "the Church"). The warrants identified 162 items and classes of items to be seized based upon an affidavit of a former Scientology official who testified with respect to the thefts in 1975 of Government documents from the headquarters of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and the offices of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The vast majority of the agents participated in the Los Angeles searches, during which nearly 50,000 documents were seized in the course of approximately 23 hours.

Shortly after the execution of the warrants, the Church of Scientology filed this action and along with the Founding Church, two additional federal court actions in Los Angeles and the District of Columbia seeking the return and suppression of property pursuant to Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.2 Following a stay of proceedings entered October 20, 1977, very little of significance occurred in this action for nearly three years, during which time the Rule 41(e) petitions were actively litigated.

On July 27, 1977, Chief Judge William B. Bryant ruled that the warrant executed in the District of Columbia was invalid on its face as a "general warrant" in violation of the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment.3 In re Search Warrant Dated July 4, 1977, 436 F.Supp. 689 (D.D.C.1977). On December 1, 1977, the D.C. Circuit reversed, and upheld the validity of the warrant, remanding for consideration of the legality of the execution of the warrant. In re Search Warrant Dated July 4, 1977, 572 F.2d 321 (D.C.Cir.1977), cert. denied sub nom. Founding Church of Scientology v. United States, 435 U.S. 925, 98 S.Ct. 1491, 55 L.Ed.2d 519 (1978).4

Following several days of hearings, Judge Malcolm M. Lucas in memorandum opinions of April 4 and July 5, 1978, upheld the facial validity and the execution of the warrants in Los Angeles on all grounds raised by the Church. Church of Scientology v. United States, No. CV 77-2565-MML (C.D. Cal.1978) hereinafter cited as the Lucas decision. On August 14, 1978, eleven members of the Church of Scientology, including several of its top officers, were indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia. On February 22, 1979, the Ninth Circuit, citing DiBella v. United States, 369 U.S. 121, 82 S.Ct. 654, 7 L.Ed.2d 614 (1963), dismissed the Church's appeal of the Lucas decision in light of its potential disruptive effect on pending criminal proceedings in the District of Columbia. Church of Scientology v. United States, 591 F.2d 533 (9th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1043, 100 S.Ct. 729, 62 L.Ed.2d 729 (1980).

Nine of the Scientology defendants scheduled to go to trial before Judge Charles B. Richey moved to suppress the evidence seized during the July 8, 1977, searches. The suppression motion concerned only the legality of the Los Angeles searches, as the Government took the position that it had not shown any of the documents seized in the District of Columbia to the grand jury nor did it intend to use such documents at or in preparation for trial. United States v. Hubbard, 493 F.Supp. 209, 212 (D.D.C.1979). The suppression hearing began on July 3, 1979, in Los Angeles and ended in Washington, D.C. on August 29, 1979.

In an opinion issued September 13, 1979, Judge Richey upheld the facial validity of the Los Angeles warrants, and ruled that the 201 documents the prosecution intended to introduce in its case-in-chief had been legally seized. He rejected the attempt of the nine Scientology defendants5 to invalidate the seizure of the 201 documents based upon, among other Fourth Amendment contentions, the seizure of numerous other documents alleged to be outside the scope of the warrant. Judge Richey based his denial of the suppression motion not only on a broad finding that the Government agents did not violate the Fourth Amendment, but also on two specific legal grounds—the virtual absence of standing to challenge seizures and an apparent rejection of defendants' theory for suppressing the 201 documents as beyond the permissible scope of the exclusionary rule. Id. at 215, 224. On October 26, 1979, each of the nine defendants was found guilty on a stipulated record of one count of the indictment.6 They were sentenced on December 6-7, 1979, and appealed. Arguments were held February 27, 1981, and the D.C. Circuit in a per curiam opinion issued October 2, 1981, affirmed the convictions and rejected all of defendants' contentions, including their challenge to the denial of the suppression motion. United States v. Heldt, 668 F.2d 1238 (D.C.Cir. 1981).

In the present action, activity relevant to the current proceedings began with the filing of the Second Amended Complaint on June 2, 1980. On June 23, 1980, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). At the July 21, 1980, hearing on the motion before Judge William Matthew Byrne, Jr., defendants agreed to withdraw their motion and plaintiff on September 3, 1980, filed the Third Amended Complaint (hereinafter referred to as the Complaint). It alleges that the 20 individual defendants and the U.S. Department of Justice violated plaintiff's First, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendment rights in the execution of the Los Angeles searches and their aftermath.

The Complaint contends that defendants violated plaintiff's rights and those of its members to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in several specific respects, including: 1) conducting a "general search" involving the seizure of thousands of documents beyond the geographic scope of the search authorized in the warrant (¶ 14), and beyond the 162 categories of seizable documents described in the warrant and accompanying affidavit (¶¶ 15, 16); 2) using the search as an opportunity to develop information for collateral Government investigations (¶¶ 13, 16); and 3) the "wanton and needless" destruction of Church property in connection with the forcible breaking of doors, locks and safes (¶ 19).7 Plaintiff also alleges that its constitutional rights were violated when defendants disrupted Church activities by totally occupying the premises searched without any legitimate law enforcement purpose (¶ 17), used physical and other means of intimidating and harassing Church members who were present (¶ 18), and disseminated information gained in the searches to individuals and entities engaged in litigation against the Church (¶ 20). Plaintiff asserts that all of these actions were taken "in bad faith" and for the purpose of "harassing" the Church and its members in the exercise of their First Amendment rights (¶ 21), and as part of a "continuing effort" by the Justice Department, stretching over nearly a quarter of a century, to interfere with, and ultimately to destroy, the Church of Scientology (¶¶ 7-12).

The Church seeks at least $100 million in general damages from defendants in their individual and official capacities, and at least $400 million in punitive damages. The Church also seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and reasonable attorneys' fees.

On October 20, 1980, defendants filed the present Rule 21(b) motion to dismiss the Complaint. Defendants contend that it should be entirely dismissed for lack of specificity and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and that the request for injunctive relief should be stricken on several grounds. Defendants also object to various claims and bases for jurisdiction set forth in the complaint. Three of the individual defendants assert personal defenses of improper service of process and/or lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants also assert that the Lucas decision on the Rule 41(e) motion and Judge Richey's ruling on the Scientology defendants' suppression motion each bar plaintiff under the doctrine of collateral estoppel from attempting to relitigate any of the allegations of the complaint.

The Court held a hearing on the motion on November 10, 1980, and submitted six additional questions to the litigants by minute order dated November 12, 1980. The Court held additional hearings on January 15, and March 4, 1981, before which the litigants submitted further documents and briefing. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice, which had not been served at the time the general motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint was filed, also moved to dismiss on February 9, 1981, on the ground that it is...

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