Author Topic: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia  (Read 98835 times)

Offline skydog

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #120 on: February 02, 2011, 21:25 »
Sorry for the length of this post;

Case Summary
The CoS filed a Fourteen Count Complaint in Federal Court against the City of Sandy Springs and various individuals seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, and attorney’s fees.  Each of the fourteen counts is a separate cause of action meaning that the church can win the lawsuit if it prevails on any one of these counts. Most of the counts are related and can be broken down as follows: 1) Freedom of religion claims; 2) Equal protection claims; 3) Freedom of speech and assembly claims; and 4) State and federal condemnation claims. The freedom of religion claims include the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The Georgia Constitution has similar guarantees including freedom of conscience and religion.
In a nutshell, the church claims that they cannot practice their religion unless they have at least a 40,000 square foot building. With respect to the issue of parking, they claim that the proposed facility provides ample parking (111 spaces) and the city’s insistence on more (130 spaces) is the result of discriminatory application of the zoning regulations and results in the denial of a plethora of constitutional rights. Consequently, they are asking the court to issue a ruling forcing the city to grant their application and pay them for their trouble.

Civil Procedure in General

Pleadings are the formal documents filed with the court by the respective parties stating their claims and defenses. The plaintiff will begin a lawsuit by filing a complaint; the defendant responds by filing an answer. The defendant may also file a counter-claim. If a counter-claim is filed, the defendant becomes the plaintiff in the counter-claim; the plaintiff (defendant in counter-claim) then files an answer. Taken together, these documents define and narrow the issues the court must decide. Once the pleadings have closed-the defendant has answered the complaint-the case is set down for a trial.

In most cases, either party may be entitled to have the disputed factual issues resolved by a jury. In some cases, there is no right to a jury trial. The parties are not entitled to a jury trial in cases seeking injunctive relief or declaratory judgment-remedies sought in this case. These are equitable remedies and there is no right to a jury trial; the judge, after hearing the evidence, will resolve any disputed facts. However, because there are fourteen counts, the parties may be entitled to a jury trial on some of those counts.



Summary Judgment

Before trial, either or both parties may file a Motion for Summary Judgment. This motions says there are no disputed facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In deciding this motion the court looks at the pleadings filed by the parties, the discovery material (interrogatories and depositions), and any other exhibits filed in support of or opposition to the motion.

The court has three options; it may grant the motion; it may deny the motion; or may grant the motion in part and deny it in part. Unless the motion is granted, the decision is not final and may not be appealed by either party. The court has simply said there are disputed facts that need to be resolved with a trial and no judgment can be entered until a judge or jury resolves these facts.

If the motion is granted-there are no genuine issues of fact-the court will then enter judgment for the moving party. If the motion is granted, it is a final judgment that can be appealed by the losing party. Again, since there are fourteen counts in the complaint, the court may grant summary judgment on some of the counts and not on others. The losing party may be required to appeal those decisions but some jurisdictions allow the parties to wait until all counts have been decided.

In this case, both parties have filed Motions for Summary Judgment. The church has moved for partial summary judgment on its religious discrimination claims. If granted, the court would then have a trial on the remaining issues-the appropriate remedy to be applied. The city has also moved for summary judgment on all counts. If granted, the church would lose and probably file an appeal.

Merits of the case

While no one can predict what a court will decide, it is my opinion that there is not much merit to the church’s claims. The church’s principle contention is that the parking requirements should be governed by the zoning regulations pertaining to “churches and other places of worship”. If that regulation were applied, the plan submitted by the church would provide for three times that required under that section of the regulation. If that were the only fact looked at, it would indeed appear that something was remiss in the application process.

Unfortunately for the church, its argument is seriously undermined by the facts of record. Pride is considered the most serious of the deadly sins in every religion but scientology; there it is considered a virtue. Their complaint is a self-serving testament to the wonders of scientology and the superiority of its beliefs and practices. (See, Complaint, ¶¶ 17-36) It is a religion of such technological advancement that its scriptures accurately dictate the exact amount of square footage required to provide optimal spiritual advancement.

At every stage of the proceedings they went to great lengths to demonstrate that they were not like “churches and other places of worship” but now complain because the city took them at their word. One of the ironies of this case is had they been truthful, they need far fewer than 111 parking spaces. They currently need less than 40 spaces at their existing facility; they have no more than 100 active members in the greater Atlanta area. This number has remained fairly constant for the last ten years and probably longer. Despite the claims of church management, the traffic studies of Nashville and Buffalo are evidence of a religion with few adherents. Yet Deb Danos, in all her vainglory glibly states that there will be 100 staff members in the building on a daily basis and the public will beat down the doors to receive training and auditing.

The statutory and case law does not support the church. They must demonstrate that the city’s action imposed a substantial burden on the practice of their religion. Case law in the 11th circuit (include Georgia) is clear that they must show more than an inconvenience. There is case law that holds that insufficient space does not amount to a “substantial burden”. There is no evidence that the church could not sell the property and move to a larger location. While this might be inconvenient for the church, it does not impose a substantial burden as that term is defined.






Offline mefree

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #121 on: February 02, 2011, 21:33 »
Thanks skydog! 
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Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #122 on: February 02, 2011, 21:40 »
Sorry for the length of this post;

No need to apologize, skydog; we love it!   TYVM!

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Offline skydog

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #123 on: February 02, 2011, 21:51 »
Do you have any idea when will the judge rule on these? Most likely the motion to strike will come first - but I'm curious when it will all be ruled on.

The matter will be set down for oral argument on the cross motions for summary judgement. My guess is the court will probably hear argument on the motions to strike at that time. It is anyone's guess when he/she will make a decision but the local rules may require a decision within a certain amount of time. Even if there is, that deadline can be extended with the agreement of the parties. 

As far at the merits of those motions, the city appears to have the legal edge and have provided citations to legal authority that appears dispositive. The church, on the other hand, cites no cases in support of the admissibility Lawrence's testimony. With respect to Danos' testimony stating the lack of space was a substantial burden, that appears to be a legal conclusion rather than a statement of fact. The church cites a lower court decision from California that held that inadequate space creates a substantial burden. However, there are other lower court decisions from other jurisdictions that hold that lack of space does not create a substantial burden.

This may be an example of a disputed fact that needs to be litigated. From my read of the depositions, it would be a lot of fun to cross examine the church officials on that point.

Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #124 on: February 04, 2011, 23:49 »
I just have to wonder what the people involved who were unaware of Scientology until this started are thinking about it now.  (Laurel Henderson, Nancy Leathers, even Woodie Galloway, for instance.)  I mean, it must look pretty peculiar to them, that the square footage of a building is so important to the strange rituals of moving from one room to another for this "religion".

Of course, they can't say anything like this, in the legal surroundings, but I'd love to hear what tell their families when they go home. 

 :-D^\^\

The responses in the depositions make Scientology look even weirder than it already did to those of us who know something about it.

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Offline Mary_McConnell

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #125 on: February 22, 2011, 12:04 »
Looking forward to any updates, especially any court reportings if someone gets the chance to sit in :)
I am a volunteer advocate for victims of the Narconon scam. I am a former scientologist. I post anonymously. Mary McConnell is my long time nom de plume. Feel free to contact me for assistance in righting the wrongs.

Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #126 on: March 02, 2011, 21:46 »
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Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #127 on: March 02, 2011, 22:30 »
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_67.1.pdf
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_67.2.pdf

I would just like to point out this information in relation to the statements in the above documents from 2004:

Quote
http://www.fultonassessor.org/Main/Home.aspx
PARID: 17 006900010514   
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF GEORGIA INC   5395 ROSWELL RD
Sales
Sale Date   Sale Price   Grantee                                  Grantor
17-NOV-05   $5,600,000   CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF                 HAMMOND PROPERTY INVESTORS
06-JUN-05   $4,600,000   HAMMOND PROPERTY INVESTORS               KIRBO PROPERTY SERVICES LLC
06-JUN-05   $3,550,000   KIRBO PROPERTY SERVICES LLC              JPMORGAN CHASE BANK
03-FEB-04   $0           JPMORGAN CHASE BANK                      REALMARK VII LP

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Offline wynot

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #128 on: March 03, 2011, 09:58 »
A quick read of http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_16_82.pdf, shows that Deb Danos lied under oath when testifying about their lease of the Shallowford Rd. space. A brief excerpt:

Quote
Contrary to the sworn deposition testimony of Deborah Danos, the lease for the North Shallowford Road property was for a three (3) year and seven (7) month term ending on April 15, 2011, subject to an earlier termination provided certain conditions were met. Compare Exh. 2, p. 3, 17 with Doc. 44-1, p. 34-35. The lease demonstrates that, absent termination which could not have immediately occurred due to necessary construction at the new facility, Plaintiff was obligated to pay this rent irrespective of the City’s zoning decision.

I'm pretty sure that most judges disapprove of perjurers! {=lies=}

And I'll bet the other documents listed above will prove equally entertaining!

'til next time!
wynot
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

Jacob Riis

Offline wynot

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #129 on: March 03, 2011, 10:29 »
 Another brief excerpt, this time from http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_80_w_exhibits.pdf:

Quote
10.
The church paid approximately $500,000.00 to Gensler, the
architecture firm that created the space plans for the building
to be developed as a 43,916 square foot worship facility. Id. ¶
10.
RESPONSE: Undisputed.
11.
As a result of the City’s denial, the Gensler plans cannot
be used in their current form and would need to be substantially
revised. Id. ¶ 11.
RESPONSE: Disputed. The existing O-I zoning on the property
limited the use to 32,053 square feet of offices. Exh. 3, p. 2,
10-11. Nothing about the City’s decision to maintain the square
footage limitation already on the property rendered these plans
unusable. Id. Gensler’s space plans have never been usable based
on the pre-existing limitations on the property that Plaintiff
chose to ignore. Id.

I love that last sentence; it neatly encapsulates the denial of reality required of scientologists! _/?%

'ti next time;
wynot
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

Jacob Riis

Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #130 on: March 05, 2011, 13:16 »
These are the same files listed above, with notations as to what they contain.  I hope this will make reading more pleasant for everyone.

Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute:
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_67.0.pdf

Plaintiff's Exhibit I - Completed Staff Work, Situation: Atlanta Org requires larger quarters in order to create an Ideal Org and an island of sanity in the Southeast, October 7, 2004
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_67.1.pdf
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_67.2.pdf

Church of Scientology of Georgia, Inc.'s Statement of Additional Undisputed Material Facts in Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_68.0.pdf

Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_01_31_69.0.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ MEMORANDUM OF LAW REPLYING TO PLAINTIFF’S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14.70.0.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_71.0.pdf

Dillard & Galloway, LLC, Church offer to compromise
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_71.1.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_72-main.pdf

Certified copy of civil proceedings in Case Number 10CV13242-4, Waterford Park, LLC and PS Energy Group, Inc.  Assignees of JK Complex, LLC vs. Church of Scientology of Georgia, Inc. A Georgia Corporation                         
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_72-1_exhibit.pdf
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_72-2_exhibit.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_73_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_74_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_75_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_76_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_77_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_78_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_79_w_exhibits.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_14_80_w_exhibits.pdf

NOTICE OF APPEARANCE - William Charles Hayes and enters an appearance as additional counsel on behalf of all Defendants in the above-styled action. Laurel E. Henderson remains lead counsel in the case. 
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_16_81.pdf

DEFENDANTS’ AMENDMENT TO THEIR RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
http://alley.ethercat.com/storage/RLUIPA/2011_02_16_82.pdf

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Offline skydog

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #131 on: March 07, 2011, 13:35 »
It is unfortunate that so many innocent trees be killed are killed in the name of due process. I was actually impressed with the church's brief until I read the city's response: "Defying all logic and reason, Plaintiff maintains that 41 parking spaces are adequate to serve a 43,215 square foot facility purposefully located next to major highways and one of the busiest intersections in Atlanta so as “to be accessible by ... local Scientologists and those coming from surrounding states.” Doc. 67-1 pp. 1-2 (emphasis added); Doc 67-2 p. 1; Doc. 69 pp. 6, 10, 13. Defendants, however, are not required to accept Plaintiff’s delusions."Emphasis mine.

These documents are all being filed to narrow the issues. At some point the court will decide this motion for summary judgment; in the meantime, the church is being sued for unpaid rent on one former location and allowing the new property to fall into disrepair.


Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #132 on: March 07, 2011, 18:13 »
It is unfortunate that so many innocent trees be killed are killed in the name of due process. I was actually impressed with the church's brief until I read the city's response: "Defying all logic and reason, Plaintiff maintains that 41 parking spaces are adequate to serve a 43,215 square foot facility purposefully located next to major highways and one of the busiest intersections in Atlanta so as “to be accessible by ... local Scientologists and those coming from surrounding states.” Doc. 67-1 pp. 1-2 (emphasis added); Doc 67-2 p. 1; Doc. 69 pp. 6, 10, 13. Defendants, however, are not required to accept Plaintiff’s delusions."Emphasis mine.

I liked that part a lot too.   C{{O}}

Quote
These documents are all being filed to narrow the issues. At some point the court will decide this motion for summary judgment; in the meantime, the church is being sued for unpaid rent on one former location and allowing the new property to fall into disrepair.

And all the while spending who knows how much on the RLUIPA suit. 

Thanks for your input, skydog.
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Offline mefree

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #133 on: March 08, 2011, 20:52 »
Quote
Case Reassigned to Judge Amy Totenberg. Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr no longer assigned to case. NOTICE TO ALL COUNSEL OF RECORD: The Judge designation in the civil action number assigned to this case has been changed to 1:10-cv-82-AT. Please make note of this change in order to facilitate the docketing of pleadings in this case. (adg) (Entered: 03/07/2011)
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Offline mefree

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #134 on: March 08, 2011, 21:14 »
Quote
Federal judicial career

In February 2009, Totenberg submitted a resume and letter of interest for a United States district judgeship vacancy. After an interview by a committee appointed by the Georgia Democratic Congressional Delegation, Totenberg was among the applicants whose names were submitted to the White House.

On March 17, 2010, President Obama nominated Totenberg to fill the judicial vacancy on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that had been created by the decision by Judge Jack Tarpley Camp Jr. to assume senior status at the end of 2008.

Totenberg was unanimously approved on December 1, 2010 by the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary with a voice vote.

Senators returned Totenberg's nomination to President Obama at the end of the 111th Congress and he resubmitted the nomination on January 5, 2011.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Totenberg in a voice vote on February 28, 2011. She received her commission March 1, 2011.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Totenberg
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Offline Stutroup

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #135 on: March 08, 2011, 22:48 »
Out of curiosity (and knowing it's not so common for cases to be reassigned without good reason), is there any reason given for the change in judge?

Offline mefree

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #136 on: March 08, 2011, 23:22 »
Out of curiosity (and knowing it's not so common for cases to be reassigned without good reason), is there any reason given for the change in judge?

 (/^I^\)
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Offline ethercat

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #137 on: March 09, 2011, 06:26 »
Out of curiosity (and knowing it's not so common for cases to be reassigned without good reason), is there any reason given for the change in judge?

I don't know if papers giving the reason will be filed or not, but it caused a raised eyebrow on my part.  It may amount to nothing.  The new judge has a lot to get up to speed on before making a ruling for summary judgment or not.

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Offline skydog

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #138 on: March 10, 2011, 18:38 »
The only reason there would be any paper trail explaining the change is if one of the parties moved to disqualify the judge-there would have to be a motion. Most lawyers don't like doing that because they feel, if denied, any animosity the judge had would be compounded. Beyond that, there could be any number of reasons for a change-some sinister, other innocuous.

Offline mefree

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Re: RLUIPA Law Suit Filed by Church of Scientology of Georgia
« Reply #139 on: March 10, 2011, 19:03 »
The only reason there would be any paper trail explaining the change is if one of the parties moved to disqualify the judge-there would have to be a motion. Most lawyers don't like doing that because they feel, if denied, any animosity the judge had would be compounded. Beyond that, there could be any number of reasons for a change-some sinister, other innocuous.

I'm hoping for the innocuous instead of a strange coincidence. 
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