Headley Case Dismissal Upheld

The dismissal of Marc and Claire Headley’s case against Scientology Inc. was upheld by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

headley case 9th Circuit opinion

The lawyer who originally filed the case did Marc and Claire a disservice by putting all their eggs in the Human Trafficking issue basket.  Note, the counsel who argued the case in the 9th Circuit for the Headleys – not the same lawyer who brought the case in the first place – did a noble job with what she had been given to work with.

While the 9th Circuit upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit, the court indirectly condemned what had happened to the Headleys.   After taking several pages to reason why the Human Trafficking standard was not met, the court concluded the decision with these words:

Likewise, we do not decide how the Headleys might have
fared under a different statute or on other legal theories. The
Headleys abandoned claims under federal and state minimum
wage laws. And although the Headleys marshaled evidence of
potentially tortious conduct, they did not bring claims for
assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, or any of a number of other theories that
might have better fit the evidence. The Headleys thus wagered
all on a statute enacted “to combat” the “transnational crime”
of “trafficking in persons”—particularly defenseless, vulnerable immigrant women and children. 22 U.S.C. § 7101(a),
(b)(24); see id. § 7101(b)(1), (2), (4), (17), (22). Whatever bad
acts the defendants (or others) may have committed, the
record does not allow the conclusion that the Church or the
Center violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The “church” will call this a landmark victory.  Miscavige will certainly be tickled pink.  After all, they have once again thrown L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology under the bus of public opinion.  They have created a Circuit Court opinion that finds a lot of creepy behavior is motivated by belief in the Scientology religion.

Those who have been watching know that in the end it was Marc and Claire Headley who won the bigger victory.  We know for a fact that the filing of the suit (and all the sweat, blood and tears Marc and Claire spilled in litigating it) resulted in cancellation of Scientology Inc’s forced abortion policy.  It also resulted in dozens of former Sea Org members receiving substantial compensation (pay offs to remain silent – but compensation to create new lives nonetheless).

And, who can tell us how many people were spared the more drastic versions of the following at the hands of Miscavige because the Headley’s stepped up?:



false imprisonment

intentional infliction of emotional distress

With the dismissal, watch for Miscavige to escalate the abuses once again.  Historically, he has always done so when the church produces such a decision. Be alert folks, as per usual, we are the ones that will handle the fall out.


Barry Van Sickle commented:

Marty is incorrect about the intial lawsuit, and who made the decision to narrow the case to a human trafficking case.. The decsion to place all the eggs in the human trafficking basket was made by the Metzger firm over my objection. The intial lawsuit was filed 4 years after Marc Headley escaped. That created statute of limitation problems for most potential causes of action. Given the 4 year period between escape and lawsuit, the initial case was focused on Business & Profession Code 17200 and labor law violations. The Human Trafficking claims were added later. Also, the decisions to drop the labor claims and not challenge that the Headleys were ‘ministers” were , in my opinion, mistakes , made after I was forced out of the case. I read this blog regularly and have much respect for Marty, but he has his facts wrong on how this case became a human trafficking case and the “minister exception” issue was essentially conceded.

  • I replied as follows:

    I’ll fix the post Barry. You should know that from the moment I received the suit – long after it had been filed – I noted the ballyhoo’d labor violation and forced labor claims would be nixed by the Alamo case precedent (since strengthened with the ministerial exemption line of cases). My advice from the get-go was to go hard to the basket with the plethora of torts committed since the Headley’s left, all very provable and clearly within the statute of limitations. Or maybe you don’t know that – because I relayed that and never spoke to you for another year or so.

168 responses to “Headley Case Dismissal Upheld

  1. Barry Van Sickle

    My last comment has been under moderation for a long time. This suggets to me that there is something in it that is bothering someone. That was written and submitted before I saw the ” Update”. Please delete that if you wish. No offense will be taken, and no questions asked.

    Of course, I was aware of other potential tort remedies including intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment , and assault. I have litigated and tried these cases to a jury. For several reasons, both legal and practical, these claims, including emotional distress claims in particular, are difficult claims to pursue against Corporate Scientolgy. That claim opens discovery to many things private, requires expensive expert testimony and requires severe emotional distress—not just upset, stress, or bursts of hopelessness. Not every ex-SO will have that degree of emotional distress. Further, the stress causing conduct will be met with the usual ” religious practice” defense.

    Since the usual tort claims are frequently problematic when employed against Scientology, the early goal in the Headley case was to find a simpler and more direct path to a win. I did not want a repeat of Wollersheim.The labor laws seemed to provide the simpler and different approach I was looking for. I still think the labor law theory has promise if pursued in the right case. Of course , I could be wrong and I am pretty sure you disagree. So be it.
    Your comment on post-departure torts is somewhat surprisingto me. There may have been torts of invasion of privacy and interference with prospective advantage, however, they would not have been easy to prove and the damages caused by those torts would have been relatively small.

    For better or worse, the goal was to change the way the cult worked and paid SO members, and get people compensated at least for minimum wage. The result was disappointing, at least in the short run, but if I had not brought that case I am 99% sure that the case would not have been prosecuted.

    • martyrathbun09

      I am actually going to post both of your comments. I was contemplating a post on the first one – but this second one makes it more certain. Barry, the reason Scientology Inc has used you as a pinata nearly your entire adult life lies in Einstein’s definition of insanity; or L. Ron Hubbard’s definition of the computation.

    • I think Marty’s blog works with a double queue system, both queues handled as batch processing.

      The first queue is batch processed by moderators, people who are helping Marty (thanks to the internet, they may be all over the world, so the system works 24/7). S/he does the batch processing every e.g. 15 or 30 or etc minutes. Everything which is controversial or may need Marty’s answer goes to the second queue.

      The second queue is batch processed by Marty. Obviously, I don’t expect Marty to check the 2nd queue as soon as every 30 minutes. He is doing a lot of cycles, and from time to time he checks the 2nd queue. That’s why some comments may be under moderation for a long time.

      Thank you Marty, Mosey, moderators, and other helpers for doing this blog possible.

  2. The confusion permeating, saturating, soaking, the distinctions between 1st Amendment “religion clauses” and “ministerial exception” are driving me nuts. This is isn’t aimed at anyone anymore than a fire hydrant is, but such misuses of terms, and such minusnderstandings, of terms which DO have legal foundation are thrown around and pretty soon even judges are confused into thinking that “ministerial exception” means that “a minister of a religious organization can do anything he pleases short of murder just as long as The Faithful agreed to it all”.

    Maybe all this goes back to all the regrettable incidents surrounding the history of Christianity and Islam, and the crucifixions and lion-feedings and crusades and jihands and infidels and witches and flagellants and monks and nuns and hair on the palms of your hands and the plague and the reformation, the inquisition, and, and, and ….

    I truly wish someone would clarify the SIMPLE differences between:
    Free Exercise (you can believe the Earth is your Mother if it makes you happy)
    Ministerial exception (to the Civil Rights Act)
    Generally applicable law.

    Then maybe we can get some lawyers who don’t go running around charging hundreds of bucks an hour to dream “happy dreams” about Arguing First Amendment Rights Before The Supreme Court, when all they gotta do is say: “Hey your Honor, this guy here, my client, was hit, thrown to the ground, imprisoned against his will in life-threatening conditions, fed a starvation diet, deprived of sleep, hit some more, and when he tried to escape they tracked him down like a pack of self-appointed vigilantes with dogs because they were scared to death he would expose their criminal acts to the police!”

    Ministerial privilege – the right to sanctity of confessionl
    Ministerial exemption – use of an automobile exempt from taxes
    Ministerial exception – you can discriminate based on race, creed, color, religion, etc. etc.

    [Some] lawyers get into this fantasy world that religious organizations and their employess can still go charging around picking up random people off the streets and burn them as witches and that is FALSE. The facts are that you can throw the proverbial book at these religious organizations – just as long as it isn’t the Holy Bible. You can’t throw the Holy Bible in court. Everything else, you can (well, pretty much, as many lawsuits have shown, even hot coffee, blood spatter, semen stains, beds, bricks, you name it). But no throwing the Holy Bible. If you throw that, the judge throws you. Very simple math.

  3. Barry Van Sickle

    I have for many years held the opinion that the place to beat Scientology Inc. is in the court of public opinion. The legal system is less effective in this battle than blogs like yours and appropriate media coverage. I believe that you have expressed this view many times. I also agree with you that Scientology , Inc is dead.
    Still , there is a role for the legal sytem to play when former cult members want help…I take my shots.

    • Mr. Van Sickle,

      Excuse me for butting in, but there is also a role for legal professional and the legal system in the future of Scientology. It is my perception and belief that there is a need for a loosely unifying structure which would allow individuals to ‘practice their faith’ completely undisturbed by those who place destruction high on their list of priorities. Ideally, Scientology could be preserved not just a science of mind for those who see its benefits, but also as a religious faith such that independent churches, however small, could benefit from Constitutional rights, and not devolve into paying malpractice insurance.


    • Mr van Sickle – thanks for the data. I practice law in South Africa and fully understand what you are saying. Your uphill battle started with the pressure from Scn Inc on two of the plaintiffs/claimants who withdrew, so the playing fields were not level from an early stage. You are right too about the best chance of winning the battle being fought in the court of public opinion, and it is happening. Six months ago I would have donated money to see you defeated – now I see the truth (and that is only because people have spoken out) and I applaud your efforts. The tide is turning, but one has to keep up the pressure on all fronts for the truth to come out and for things to right themselves. South Africa is a country in point, but we would not have gotten here without the push on every front – the judiciary woke up early, the politicians a bit later. Lenin (I think it was him – varisty days are a distant past) said ‘Law is Politics”, and thats the part of the problem – as lawyers we cannot merely argue what we think is right, because we (and the judiciary) are bound by the framework of the legislation. Justice cannot be gotten without proper laws, and proper laws cannot be drafted without the backing of rightminded public opinion, and rightminded public opinion sees the light of day when the truth is revealed. The Headley case is a step in that direction. Thank you for your efforts – they are appreciated! Wendy Munro.

      • Li'll bit of stuff

        Ah, Wendy, so good to see the credentials appearing!
        and good to see that you have shaken off the effects
        of the deadly disease, “Miscavigeoholism.” I’m sure
        you will agree, it’s not easy when one is among other
        “drinkers” who just can’t stand seeing an “empty glass.”
        if you will pardon all the satirical puns?

        Marty’s coined phrase “decompression” so graphically
        described in his ‘Truth Rundown ‘ tell all video, makes
        the experience very believable for anyone with a pair
        of ears and eyes. It really does take a lot of effort to
        re-examine accepted beliefs and ways of life,deemed
        as “written in stone” !

        The enormous self correcting capacity of Ron Hubbard’s
        genius creation — Scientology, permits one to do exactly
        that!—Alter virtually ANY belief or ideal through the
        technology of Auditing, permitting a being to examine
        precepts and beliefs and evaluate and compare these
        using INFINITY valued logic, as compared to the now
        extinct dinosaur logic, used by homo-sapiens ie ;
        2 – valued logic, or later 3 – valued logic. (see entry on
        p.209 – original tech dictionary.)

        I must say, it is very encouraging to see a number of
        South Africans now taking off those frigging heavy
        masks, and stepping out into the sunshine!
        So very liberating AND empowering, in every single
        sense of the word.

        Calvin B. Duffield.Durban
        Declaration. Mothers Day 12/13 May
        Steve Hall’s Indie 500 list no # 301

  4. When Hubbard was on the lines, if someone had an ARCX with the Church, a staff member was sent to audit to them or clean it up. Today, if someone has an ARCX with the Church, first they get declared, then they have to appeal to a court of law to address the damages. This more or less sums up the decline of the Church of Scientology.

  5. In my opinion, this is the right decision. “Human Trafficking” is people kidnapping kids and forcing them to give blow jobs to old men on pain of death or dismembership. It was the wrong tack to take – oh well.

  6. Barry Van Sickle

    The public perception of human trafficking is about sex and/or third world peons. The law is much broader than public perception. It includes a section on forcing labor by coercion–both physical and mental.

  7. Marc and Claire Headley, I admire you and your beautiful family.

  8. “The ministerial exception is a de-facto law of the United States intended to protect the freedom of religion that exempts religious institutions from anti-discrimination laws in hiring employees. For example, the US government cannot force the Catholic church to hire homosexual or female priests.[1]

    “It is the focus of the DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC court cases.”


    IMO, the ministerial exception had NO SUBSTANTIVE BASIS in the Headley case. It is simply evidence of the gross misunderstandings revolving around this “issue” that the phrase came up at all. The “ministerial exception” has NOTHING to do with the way a religious organization TREATS its employees once they are employed; it deals ONLY with the right of a religious organization to hire OR FIRE based on their views of the world. I have read that the State courts hate the Federal Courts, because the State courts are accustomed to the earlier laws requiring a State to DEMONSTRATE that there is NO DISCRIMINATION to any religious organization in the drafting or application of laws. States (and probably some Federal courts) WRONGLY attempt to roll back the law of the land to those days, using “ministerial exception” as a homonymic excuse. Liberals love homonyms and rhymes, because they’re so stupid they think it makes them sound smart.”Morons” should be established as a legitimate, regressive, most rapidly growing religion. I think I just broke my keyboard. Read Employment Division v. Smith – that case was NOT the Sunday Funnies to use as a colorful addition to the birdcage, you know? Christ, this is harder than convincing someone who’s read Leibnitz that the material universe exists.

  9. For any still confused by words, this is an example of ministerial privilege, the protected communications between a priest-penitent extended to include pyschologist-patient. This was an issue in the Menendez murder case, also.


  10. I have just published a fairly extensive piece on the appeal court ruling at Infinite Complacency, built around an analysis by the lawyer who filed the original lawsuits, Barry Van Sickle:

    “The U.S. Appeal court’s rejection of the Headley lawsuits against Scientology is not carte blanche for future abuse, says the attorney who filed the original complaints: but the judgment still got it wrong, he argues.”

    It is much longer than I usually post and perhaps not the easiest read, but I thought it was worth exploring the issues in detail so as to take advantage of Van Sickle’s informed opinions.


    Jonny Jacobsen
    Infinite Complacency

  11. Pingback: The $43,0000 Bounty | Moving On Up a Little Higher

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