A Scientologist who tried to get France’s counter-cult group UNADFI sanctioned over its role in a major court case against the movement got a taste of her own medicine.
A Scientologist convicted in France's landmark fraud case against the movement has failed in a bid to get counter-cult group UNADFI and its lawyer fined for its role in the case.
Instead the Paris court that heard her complaint decided to award damages and legal costs against her. And with similar cases launched by Scientologists in the pipeline, this could be the first of a number of such reverses for the movement.
As covered here at length, Sabine Jacquart, a former president of Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Paris, was convicted with others of organised fraud in a landmark 2009 trial.1
That case, which for the first time saw two Scientology organisations in France among those convicted, was confirmed on appeal in 2011.
Jacquart's civil case against Morice was argued in a Paris civil court last October 16 – the same day the country's highest court confirmed the criminal convictions against her, four other Scientologists and the two Scientology organisations.
In her complaint, Jacquart denounced the fact that UNADFI and its lawyer Olivier Morice had played a key role at every stage of that trial.
Both the criminal court that handled the original trial and the appeal court that took it over eventually refused UNADFI plaintiff status. But those decisions were only handed down after each trial was over; after Morice had played a full role in the proceedings.
Jacquart argued that because she had been obliged to defend herself from UNADFI, an association that no business being in court in the first place, she had not received a fair trial. Scientology's lawyers lodged similar protests at both the original trial and the trial on appeal.
What made the situation worse, she argued, was that at the time in question the association's statutes were not even properly formulated, which meant it had no legal standing. UNADFI should not even have been allowed to lodge its bid for plaintiff status, she contended.
Scientology's lawyers also raised this issue during the trial on appeal, provoking a monumental courtroom row that required the intervention of the batônnier, the court mediator, to restore order.2
In her complaint, Jacquart asked the court to fine both Morice and UNADFI for their conduct in this affair and to send the criminal case back to a judge to consider if it should be re-examined.
UNADFI and Morice, in their responses argued that although the association had been refused the status of plaintiff in the fraud trial, it was not because of any question over the legality of its statutes. And given that the courts had rejected UNADFI's bid, Jacquart had no grounds for complaint against it.
UNADFI also argued that since Jacquart had not even attended the trial on appeal, it was difficult to see how her right to a fair hearing had been violated.
UNADFI and Morice objected to Jacquart's characterisation of them as meddling in court cases that did not concern them, of doing everything they could to harass and overwhelm the defendants.
They had simply been exercising their legal rights in a proper manner, they said.
Far from UNADFI harassing Scientology, the association contended that Scientology had for years been going after UNADFI in the courts: Jacquart must have known that the movement was on a mission to neutralise them, the association argued.
They asked the court to fine Jacquart for attacking them in this way.
The prosecutor's office, in its submission, also described Jacquart's action as unfounded. It saw nothing improper with UNADFI's decision to appeal the original court ruling that had denied it plaintiff status.
The court, in its ruling, rejected all Jacquart's claims. If she had a problem with UNADFI's continued presence in the courtroom, she should have raised the issue earlier, it said.
But it not only dismissed her suggestion that UNADFI and Morice had behaved improperly; it ruled that Jacquart’s bid to have them sanctioned was itself an abuse of the legal process.
The court ordered her to pay Morice 15,000 in damages and 5,000 euros to UNADFI.3 She was also instructed to pay their legal costs, another 7,000 euros.
Only a few days ago, the movement in France was making much of a ruling that awarded some of the defendants in the long-running affair damages for unacceptable delays in the case (it dates back to 1998).4
There was no word in their press release about this result however, even though it was handed down the same day, January 22.
UNADFI president Catherine Picard told Infinite Complacency that a number of the other defendants in the fraud case have filed similar complaints against them.
The two Scientology organised convicted last year of organised fraud – the Celebrity Centre and the movement's network of bookshops in France Scientologie espace librarie – have both bought cases.
So too has Alain Rosenberg, the former executive director of the Celebrity Centre convicted along with Jacquart of organised fraud and the illegal practice of pharmacy in the same case.
Picard is hoping for similar results in those cases, in rulings due next month.
If those cases do go the same way, that will rather put the dampers on Scientology's celebrations last week.
Perhaps more importantly however, it will give Scientology less leverage for their Strasbourg complaint.
For they want to protest their fraud convictions at the European Court of Human Rights by arguing that the French courts did not give them a fair trial.
So a result in any of these civil complaints would strengthen their case.
No joy so far.
1 Jacquart was also convicted of the illegal practice of pharmacy over the massive doses of vitamins used in the Purification Rundown.
2 For a more complete account, see “Paris Appeal Trial II” elsewhere at this site. When the hearings resumed the next day, it was clear the court was not moved by the defence arguments: shortly afterwards they and their lawyers walked out of the proceedings in protest at what they said was the denial of their basic rights. See “The Big Walk-out”.
3 The sums the court ordered Jacquart to pay correspond with what UNADFI had asked for in its counter-claim.
4 See Saturday’s post: “Paris Fall-out I”.