I, VICKI AZNARAN, hereby declare as follows:1
1. I am over 18 years of age and a resident of the State of Texas. I have personal knowledge of the matters set forth herein and, if called upon to do so, could and would competently testify thereto.
2. From 1972 until 1987, I was a member of various Church of Scientology (“Church”) entities. During that time I held a number of important positions in the corporate and ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Church, including President of Religious Technology Center (“RTC”) In March of 1987, my husband Richard Aznaran and I left our positions with the Church and returned home to Texas from California.
3. On April 1, 1988, Richard and I filed a lawsuit against several Church entities and individuals in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. We have now settled this case through direct negotiations with Church representatives. This declaration details how we were driven to settlement by the failure of our counsel to adequately litigate our lawsuit and how we were forced to negotiate settlement directly with representatives of the defendants due to our counsels’ failure to properly represent our interests when defendants earlier had expressed interests in settlement.
4. Our lawsuit was filed on April 1, 1988 by the firm of Cummins & White. The suit was finalized and prepared in a rush in an attempt to get it filed before it was barred by the statute of limitations.
5. Additionally, despite the fact that I then testified in
deposition about the inaccuracies in the complaint, my counsel did not amend my complaint to correct them. These uncorrected falsehoods placed us at a serious disadvantage as they enabled the defendants to seize upon these points to give the impression that we were changing our testimony and deliberately stating falsehoods.
6. Another defect in the complaint was the amount of money requested, $70,000,000. Seventy million was a highly inflated figure and in fact impaired efforts to settle as the amount was so high. Shortly after the suit was filed, I pointed the high amount out to counsel and was told that it could be adjusted later. It never was.
7. Another liability to the successful prosecution of our lawsuit was the fact that Cummins & White was disqualified from representing us in our case on September 6, 1988.
8. Not being versed in the law, my husband and I relied upon the representations of Barry Van Sickle and Cummins & White that Cummins & White could properly serve as our counsel. This was wrong. Nevertheless Cummins & White expended considerable time and effort to defend their position in this regard, an action which I now understand to have been fought more for their own self-interest than for the advance of my lawsuit. In September 1988 the District Court Judge disqualified Cummins & White as our counsel, specifically finding that Cummins & White was an extension of Yanny’s continuing and improper involvement in our case.
9. Because Cummins & White was disqualified, we were without an attorney in our case for several months and our case
was threatened with dismissal. We were forced to expend considerable effort to find new counsel and get him up to speed while the Church continued to litigate our case. To our detriment, and due to the urgency of having to find counsel in an already ongoing case, we were forced to obtain counsel without the necessary resources to adequately litigate the case.
10. Barry Van Sickle’s attempts to settle were very weak and ineffective. In June 1991 Mr. Van Sickle reported to us that he had an offer of $1,000,000 to settle our case and one other. The offered amount for our case was $200,000 which we rejected as being too low. It was a starting point but despite our efforts to get Mr. Van Sickle to do so, he never succeeded in getting a counter offer to us. Further, Mr. Van Sickle told us that we would have to fire our existing attorney, Ford Greene, as the Church supposedly refused to deal with him in settling the case. As a result we did fire Mr. Greene. Then when Mr. Van Sickle from Cummins & White failed to complete the settlement we were again left without an attorney for a time as Cummins & White had been ordered not to represent us in the case as covered earlier in this declaration.
11. After being without counsel for several months, and finding ourselves at a serious disadvantage in complex litigation with the Church defendants, we re-hired Ford Greene to be our counsel, based on an order from the Court.
12. It has been our experience that Greene seriously neglected our lawsuit and systematically worsened its posture until it became virtually impossible to salvage.
13. From approximately February 1989 onward Ford Greene was
attorney of record in our lawsuit against the Church. During that time he did virtually no offensive work on the case, and did nothing of substance to advance our litigation position. Before our case was ordered transferred to Dallas, Texas in August of 1992, Greene had only sent out two interrogatories and had did not even take one deposition despite having obtained two extensions of the discovery cut-off. Following the transfer order, Mr. Greene did nothing whatsoever to actually get the case files sent to Dallas, Texas. Meanwhile, no activity has taken place in our case.
14. While representing us, Greene was consistently late in filing papers and in several instances placed our case in serious jeopardy by failing to file needed papers. For example, in December 1990 he neglected.to oppose a major summary judgment motion which the defendants had filed. He also failed to timely file several mandatory pre-trial papers which could have interfered with our ability to effectively put on our case at trial.
15. It was reported to me by Barry Van Sickle that Mr. Green smoked marijuana when he was picked up at the airport by Rick Wynne, a Cummins & White attorney and driven to the office of Cummins & White.
16. Furthermore, Greene did not communicate with us regarding activities in our lawsuit and often could not be contacted for extended periods of time. It is my belief that at least one of these periods of non-communication was due to the fact that he had entered a drug rehabilitation program without even informing us that he intended to do so. Ford Greene did
nothing effective to settle our case. In fact, he told me he was worried about settling our case as my husband and I would no longer be witnesses for Gerry Armstrong who is a client of Ford Greene and involved in Scientology related litigation. Additionally, he attempted to bill us for work which he did not do.
17. In fact, Ford Greene solicited us to pay a monthly stipend to him for Gerry Armstrong so he could work on our case. Armstrong was precluded by an earlier agreement from working on Church litigation.
18. Furthermore, like Cummins & White, Greene was aware of the errors in the complaint and never prepared an amended complaint. In fact, he “developed” the case so that the defendants were able to accuse my husband and myself of engineering several contradictory versions of the underlying facts of the complaint. Thus Greene’s “management” of the complaint set us up so that we would be faced at trial with seemingly contradictory positions which would undermine our credibility.
19. Greene’s inactivity, neglect, mismanagement, and failure to communicate with us endangered our lawsuit. In our view, Mr. Greene’s failure to prosecute this case is tantamount to malpractice. Based upon this history, we developed the conviction that Greene would be unable to handle the trial. While we would have preferred to get rid of Greene completely, we hesitated to do so because we knew that it would be extremely difficult for new counsel to rapidly learn the facts of the case on the eve of the trial.
20. In an attempt to resolve this dilemma, we hired John Elstead to be our attorney with Ford Greene. Elstead was recommended to us by Margaret Singer, a psychologist whom we intended to use at trial. Like Greene, Elstead has also neglected to prosecute or advance our case.
21. My husband and I have always been willing to settle our lawsuit and, in fact, considered it likely that the case would end through settlement rather than trial. In the summer of 1991 John Elstead contacted counsel for the defendants to see if there was an interest in settlement. Rather than presenting an acceptable demand, indicative of a serious interest in settlement, Elstead demanded $3,300,000. This was rejected immediately by defendants who did not consider it a serious opening demand and did not treat it as a basis for negotiations.
22. In the late summer of 1992, after the case had been ordered transferred to Dallas, Elstead met with the General Counsel for the Church of Scientology International to discuss settlement. He got nowhere.
23. Seeing that the viability of our lawsuit had been seriously endangered through the neglect and malfeasance of our attorneys, my husband and I felt compelled to take matters into our own hands to resolve this litigation in our best interests. In January of 1994 I spoke directly with Mike Rinder, a senior executive of the Church of Scientology International concerning settling the lawsuit. In the course of discussing settlement with him in this and subsequent conversations, I came to realize that my attorneys had blocked possible settlement for several years. Consistently they failed to convey our true interest in
negotiating a satisfactory end to the litigation. Shortly thereafter, Graham Berry approached us to see if he could negotiate a settlement on our behalf, by falsely claiming he had been contacted by the church making settlement overtures. Desperate to resolve this matter, I told him to go ahead. Instead of making a serious offers, on February 16, 1994 Berry demanded $3,600,000 for the settlement of our case along with various threats that he was not authorized make. Again this was not a serious attempt to settle.
24. Finally I communicated directly with a representative of one of the Church of Scientology defendant organizations. It was only when my attorneys were no longer need that both sides were able to discover that our positions were not that far apart and settlement talks were feasible.
25. In sum, it has been my observation that the counsel which my husband and I have employed have not only prolonged the litigation of our lawsuit, but have mishandled the development of the case for trial, and interfered with the process of settlement. By their actions described above, my counsel appear to have consistently put their own interests above those of myself and my husband and have failed to adequately carry out their responsibilities as members of the Bar. I am convinced we would not have been able to resolve our case had we not done so directly with the Church.
I declare under the penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America, and under the laws of each individual state thereof, including the laws of the states of California and Texas, that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed this 19th day of May, 1994 in Dallas, Texas.
VICKI J. AZNARAN