Unbiased columnism # 7
Final pleas, or: unprecedented legal costs
Stockholm, Wednesday, June 3 1998
[I had had to go back to Amsterdam during the weekend. Zenon did the rest of the trial by himself and wrote this.]
True to my copyright terrorist instincts and traditions, I
am happy to serve you the last UC of this bunch: a fake
one, written by me in the absence of Karin, meant to ruin
her reputation as a writer.
Today was the last day of the hearings. Somehow I couldn't
believe it would be. I had told Magnusson (and the court)
that I would be in Holland tomorrow no matter what, and that
I would not come to court, even if the hearings weren't
finished. I was absolutely sure that Magnusson would do
everything he could to take up all day today, in order to
force me to leave without pleading.
I also had double-crossed him and booked a flight that would
allow me to to plead tomorrow anyway. This way, I estimated, he
could make a fool of himself by taking up time and yet be
disappointed at the results. Did he then? Of course he did. You
press the button and he reacts as expected time and over again.
Never fails. There's a man you can trust.
But I must admit he started off nicely. "In flagrant violation... total disrepect of the law and courts...continued infringements..."
steady pouring, good pace, firm tone. One hour. One and a half.
Then he noticed the time, slowed down a bit. And a bit more.
By 11.30 he was glancing at the clock on the wall every some
10 minutes, reducing his pace every time. He ended up spelling
the words, just like last Thursday and Friday. Body language in
court indicated a spreading unrest, irritation, boredom, disgust.
I was affected the worst: waiting for the second boot kills me.
I was wondering how far the situation would go. I could protest,
but it would be to no use. At worst, the chairman could propose
a break, which would give Magnusson the opportunity to waste yet
more time. Twice I saw Magnusson's aide yawning. The chairman is
a master of masters in keeping a stone face through anything, but
even his irritation was somehow transpiring, although I couldn't
pinpoint how. At some point I grabbed my cigarettes and started
making a move out. One more second and I would have left the
courtroom in the middle of Magnusson's plea. I controlled myself.
I saw Magnusson himself trying to suppress a yawn. Then I realized
that we were not going to have a lunch break before Magnusson
decided to finish. The lunch break is usually at an appropriate
moment in the proceedings, around 11.30-12.00. It was 11.50 and
Magnusson was going on. The chairman looked less irritated. 12.10.
The chairman began to look almost relaxed. It might be just my
imagination - I was looking at very slight changes of face and
posture - but I think I'm right. I think the judge decided to let
Magnusson delay everybody's lunch for just as long as he pleased,
and let him feel that he was doing so. Around 12.20 Magnusson was
still slowly leafing his papers, pronouncing a word per minute,
desperately looking for either something more to say or a decent
way to close. He failed with both. At 12.25, almost in the middle
of a sentence, he gave up. Ready. Lunch. I was shaking.
At 13.45 we resumed and it was my turn. It seems I can't get
anything done except under pressure. I started working on the
case late last Monday evening, on the eve of the hearing, trying
to go through and sort out some 2 thousand pages which by then
were still in disorder in a carton. Tuesday evening I put them
in binders and started going though them, finishing at eight in
the morning and going straight to court. I didn't learn my
lesson. I relaxed during the weekend, wasted most of Monday,
run a million errands on Tuesday and began to preapare my plea
around nine on Tuesday evening. It was ready at six in the morning,
whereafter I slept for one hour and went to court. The question
now was, was there any logic and coherence in the plea I had
prepared in my half-ruined state at night? I hadn't reviewed it.
It turned out there was plenty, but just a bit short of enough.
The final touch, the polishing of the arguments, their correct
order, it all could have been better. Yet, I think I made my
points quite clear. It's not easy: RTC's case is one pile of
legal shit, where all energy has been put into cheap rhetorics
and none in sorting out the causes and effects and legal
conditions and consequences of things. Typical CoS litigation,
simply. If you clean out the irrelevant and sort the mess, what
is left is just a few very simple issues that can be decided
just as correctly in one way as in the other: matters of opinion.
Which in turn means that there is no way of knowing - or even
guessing - what the ruling will be. Due to holidays it's expected
on August 31.
So far so well. The next chapter deals with legal costs. These
are generally fairly low in Sweden compared to other European
countries and cannot be compared with what is awarded (or not
awarded) in the US. The basic rule is that who loses a case pays
his counterpart's legal costs, within reason. To give you an idea,
the lawyer that represented me from October 1996 to October 1997
and did a very good job at it, was paid by the state for about
120 hours of work some SEK 150.000 (USD 19.000). 20% more would
still not have been unreasonable, but that's about it. Plus
necessary and reasonable costs. In her case it was another SEK
4.000 (USD 500). If the parties partly win and partly lose, they
carry the legal costs proportionally to their gain and loss.
Now, hold your pants. RTC has only demanded SEK 25.000 (USD
3.125) in damages and I have all along expected that it was
with the backthought that by trying to win the entire amount,
they could aim at hitting me much harder with legal costs. I
was expecting a bill of half a million and I was well prepared
to dispute it. But when the time came, Magnusson's aide got up
and handed the bill to the chairman and to me without a word.
I leafed past the introduction and looked at the figures.
Fees SEK 4.500.000. Costs SEK 345.326. USD 562.500 and 43.000
respectively. I started to laugh. I tried to stop, to no avail.
The amount is so absolutely ridiculous, so utterly absurd, so
completely ludicrous, that you begin to wonder about your own
sanity: no-one can be that insane as to ask for such a sum,
therefore you must be hallucinating yourself. I looked up. The
chairman was pronouncing the figures as if he was tasting every
one of them and - first time - he had lost his stone face. A
second judge had evidently a hard time to stop himself from
looking too amused. I looked down again and turned the paper.
It carried on. RTC's costs for work and expenses: SEK 2.122.992
(USD 265.000). Legal opinions SEK 190.009 (USD 23.700). Notary
public SEK 116.010 (USD 14.500). Witnesses SEK 181.115 (USD 22.600).
Among them, Mikael Nyström, the computer expert, was billed with
SEK 17.000 (USD 2.125) for one hour on the stand. Grand sum
RTC asked for legal costs. The amount they demand is unprecedented in Swedish legal history: 7,684,481 crowns, that is: circa 1 million US$. Scans of their calculations are included:
- Legal bill 1/8
- Legal bill 2/8
Explanation: 2.5 - Kerstin Calissendorff is Zenon's former lawyer;
the professors mentioned have been asked for their expert opinion.
- Legal bill 3/8
- Legal bill 4/8
Explanation: 5 -- William Hart is Cowboy Boots, a hired lawyer for RTC.
- Legal bill 5/8
Explanation [this is where the fun starts]: Magnusson claims to have spent 3,000 hours on the case; there are two tickets Stockholm / US for a magnificent amount; he claims to have made 100,000 xeroxes. Altogether, Magnusson's office claims 0,5 million US$ in fees and costs.
- Legal bill 6/8
Explanation: RTC claims to have spent an additional 1,000 hours on the case itself; McShane charged another 60,000 crowns; Bill Hart claims 450 hours at a rate of US$ 390 per hour [one would think him to be able to afford better boots, on such a salary].
- Legal bill 7/8
- Legal bill 8/8
Explanation: The grand total of 7,684,581 crowns, that is: something like 1 million US$. And it's signed, too...
Discussion ensued. Magnusson defended the bill. I was still
laughing, but I felt very tired. What is the point in spending
so much time and energy in a case, if you are going to ruin any
impression of seriousness you might have made, with such a bill?
What is the point of spending two years in court against someone
who ridiculed you, if the last thing you do to crown your case,
is to ridicule yourself? How is Magnusson ever going to face
a judge or a collegue in that court without thinking that they
know him as "the famous bill"? Is this what Hubbard does to people,
or are they born this way? Somehow I could neither pity Magnusson,
nor despise him. The chairman said some words in a deliberately
explicit low calm tone that reminded of his tone when he was
trying to make us settle, and the hearing was closed. Tomorrow
I'll be back in Holland.
To sum it up, it was all a waste of time and money and legal
resources. To begin with, we had a case that could have been
refined to set some of the important delimitations between
contradicting legislation; to determine where one right ends
because another right begins. There won't be much of this. RTC
deliberately derailed the case into confusion, showing all too
plainly that it neither believes in the legal system, nor in its
own case. But if they don't, why then bother to sue? The net
result of this lawsuit and its offsprings is an irreparable
damage to the CoS' reputation in this country for all overseeable
time. Why spend millions on that? I do dislike the CoS profoundly,
but I still would like to understand what goes on in the heads of
its heads, what makes them self-destruct in the way they do. I
had a chat with McShane, and found it far easier than trying to
talk to any low-level scieno I have met so far. I might be very
naive, but I get the feeling that the top and the bottom of
the CoS are mutually completing and equally mislead by their
own total lack of independent critical thinking. Somehow I
get the feeling that the entire CoS, top and bottom, is an
asylum for people that should have been helped elsewhere.
Anyway, this is not the end. As soon as the ruling comes, RTC
will appeal against it. They are bound to lose on some point
at least (if only on their amazing bill) and we all know they
always appeal. In the meanwhile I have invited them to sue me
in Holland. I might feel sorry for them sometimes when I'm
tired, but that is no excuse that they can use. If there is any
chance that they really have spent half the amount they asked
for in this lawsuit, I'll gladly see to it that they spend
another as much on a second front. That will keep them from
using the money to more destructive ends (and keep providing
amusement to ars).
Unbiased columnism is a series of court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the May 22,1998 - June 3, 1998 sessions:
- Preparations: preparing for court;
- Which material?: the alleged violation of Zenon's Temporary Restraining Order;
- To want to eat a pie and have it: the first day of the main case starts with settlement negotations;
- Brochures with a bite: does RTC own the copyrights, and are these 'unpublished texts' spread to a limited circle as RTC claims?;
- You know you're being sued by CoS when...: lots of witnesses are being heard, amongst them people from RTC and CST;
- Questioning McShane: Zenon questions RTC president McShane;
- Final pleas: the last day. RTC asks for an unprecedented amount in legal costs: circa 1 million US dollar.
Unbiased columnism continues. The next series (seven articles) was published in Jan 2002, and starts with Poor guy vs mulinational cult.
Copyright Zenon Panoussis.
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