Litigating Against Scientology

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Arnoldo Lerma

In the mid-1990s one of my partners in the Denver office of Faegre & Benson was retained to represent Arnoldo Lerma, who had been sued by the Religious Technology Center, an affiliate of the Church of Scientology. The complaint alleged copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets by Lerma’s posting certain Scientology documents on the Internet.

The case was brought in the federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, near where Lerma lived. At the time this court was known as “The Rocket Docket” because it put civil cases on a fast track to complete discovery and go to trial. As a result, our Denver office needed help on the case, and I volunteered.

My major task in the case was to represent Mr. Lerma at a deposition that the plaintiff was taking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida of a former Scientologist who previously had posted certain Scientology documents on the Internet. The deposition, in my opinion, was a very unpleasant professional experience.

I am glad that I had no other significant involvement in the case. From the Internet I believe that the district court eventually determined that Mr. Lerma had committed a small number of non-willful copyright violations and imposed a small fine. The Internet also reports that the court apparently dismissed claims by the Religious Technology Center against the Washington Post for articles it had published about the case.

U.S. District Court Alexandria, VA
Judge Leonie Brinkema

The judge in the case, by the way, was U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema. After 9/11, she presided over the criminal trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted for conspiring to kill U.S. citizens in the 9/11 attacks.