Boston University and Scientology: The SLAPP case Wollersheim versus Scientology


In the case Scientology versus Wollersheim, Earle Cooley, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Boston University, was lawyer for the Church of Scientology in California. During this case, several strange things happened. (I put the name Cooley in boldface for your convenience.)

From: Nos. B084686; B086063, Second Appellate District, Division Three, Super. Ct. No. BC074815, Appeals from judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, footnote 2.

FN2. The article states: "California superior court judge Ronald Swearinger, who presided over the Wollersheim trial, describes the case itself as anything but normal: Church trial lawyer Cooley and his co-counsel, the late John Peterson, filed a number of unsuccessful 'writs and motions' throughout the trial in an attempt to halt it, according to Judge Swearinger. Three days into the trial, the judge says, they moved for his disqualification based on 'some secret conversation I'd had with someone I'd never heard of.' They also filed a Section 1983 federal civil rights action against both him and the judge who sat on the case prior to him, says Swearinger, on the theory that by allowing the case to go to trial, the judges were denying the church its civil rights. (Cooley confirms that the Section 1983 action and the disqualification motion were filed.) [para.] But Swearinger's recollections of the oddities of the Wollersheim case go beyond court filings: 'I was followed [at various times] throughout the trial . . . and during the motions for a new trial,' the judge claims. 'All kinds of things were done to intimidate me, and there were a number of unusual occurrences during that trial. My car tires were slashed. My collie drowned in my pool. But there was nothing overtly threatening, and I didn't pay attention to the funny stuff.'" (William W. Horne, The American Lawyer, "The Two Faces of Scientology" (July, August 1992) 75, 77, 78.)

"At the trial Scientologists packed the courtroom and hallways of the courthouse and regularly interrupted the proceedings by protesting against alleged religious discrimination. [para.] 'I'd let the jury out, let the [protesters] blab on, and then let the jury back in,' says Judge Swearinger. 'It didn't bother me.' Swearinger says he thought Cooley's histrionics were 'comical' rather than effective, and that he often caught the jury 'rolling their eyes' at Cooley's 'loud talk and hostility to opposing counsel and witnesses.' The jury returned a $30 million verdict in July 1986; $5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitives." (Id. at p. 78.)