LSU-3 Case Moves Forward in Riverside Court

Image from Spectrum article

According to a recent Spectrum article, the court case involving three La Sierra University employees who have filed suit for wrongful termination (Dr. James Beach, Dr. Gary Bradley, and Dr. Jeffry Kaatz) will proceed to trial.

In the final analysis, Judge Taylor sided with the defendants’ claim that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently demonstrate the recording to be illegal (but allowed the plaintiffs to amend and replead the complaint), and sided against the defendants on the First Amendment-based demurrers. The judge sided with the defendant Ricardo Graham that he could not be held personally liable for the plaintiffs’ dismissal, but sided against Graham by finding sufficient facts to allege emotional distress. The judge denied all motions to strike, meaning that the case will proceed.

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[Headline Image L-R: Richard McCune, Ronald L. Taylor, Michael W. Connally, John Daggett, Jeffry Kaatz. Monday, December 5, 2011]

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18 thoughts on “LSU-3 Case Moves Forward in Riverside Court

  1. Holly, the word “illegal” is broad, and requires more than a one word, yes or no answer.

    What the trial court ruled in the LSU-3 case, response to the church’s demurrer, is that the recording was not made in violation of California state wiretapping laws. In other words, the making of the recording was not a criminal act because it was not made with criminal intent, but was made inadvertently. So the recording is legal in the sense that it did not violate a criminal statute.

    Here’s the part of the transcript where the court made that ruling:

    * * * *

    “Of course, I’m familiar with Penal Code Section 832.21. La Sierra argues there’s no allegations that Darnell intentionally activated the tape recorder, in violation of the Penal Code, and that even if he did, La Sierra could not be held liable under Warden versus Kahn, which is a 1979 case, 99 Cal.App.3d 805. . . . Here there’s no allegation that Darnell recorded the private conversation with, quote, “intent to do so.” Instead, the complaint alleges that Darnell recorded the faculty meeting, but that the board member, I’m assuming refers to Mr. Darnell, was unaware at the time that the digital recording contained anything other than a recording of the special faculty meeting. So I would then, tentatively, indicate that I would sustain the demurrer only as to the first cause of action, since it’s based upon a statutory violation, and is not alleged that the tape recording occurred with the requisite, quote, “intent.”

    * * * *

    However, it seemed to me from reading the transcript that the court was hinting that the use of the recording in this case to effectively force Bradley to retire, and the 3 other people to relinquish their administrative positions, may have been tortious. The part of the transcript I refer to is here:

    * * * *

    MR. CONNALLY: Your Honor has found that they didn’t violate the law. So that 17,200 claim needs to fall.

    THE COURT: I didn’t find that they didn’t violate the law.

    MR. CONNALLY: Well, Your Honor, I’m sorry. I maybe overstated it.

    THE COURT: Yeah, I think you did.

    MR. CONNALLY: What you found was that they had not pled that there was an intentional recording —

    THE COURT: Correct.

    * * * * *

    This portion seems to indicate that the judge may think that, although the recording itself did not violate criminal wiretapping statutes, there is something else about the recording or its use by Ricardo Graham in this case that was “illegal.” Or at least that is what I would infer from the court’s comments.




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  2. Holly, as to whether we can discuss the details of the recording online, I think we can. The cat’s out of the bag, now. They’ve been discussing it at Spectrum for a long time, and they’re discussing it again today.

    A public court case where three employees have sued LaSierra and several other church affiliated entities makes the recording news. I think any threat to sue websites over that material would be a transparent attempt to muzzle a free press, and an obvious violation of California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which was drafted to protect people against being sued for exercising their First Amendment rights.

    But the final decision is obviously up to the moderator of this site.




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  3. Have I missed the point. Why isn’t anyone concerned about these three men suing God’s people. The Bible clearly states, and the SOP backs it up that we are to never sue our breathren. I was in law suit once, sued by a fellow Adventist. The Lord made him look like a fool in court, and I also won my case. If these men would just walk away, they would be blessed by getting a better job, especially if the school is in error. Heaven help us if we have to let the courts of the land to settle our disputes, and not trust the Lord to resolve these kinds of issues!




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  4. Just a note about how Educate Truth operates. They currently have posted a photo from another site (Spectrum) without attribution to the photographer/author. I believe that’s called stealing.

    [Relax Alex. The article on Spectrum that contains the photo was originally referenced and the specific photo credit has been added. – sp]




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  5. Ken, I haven’t formally researched the issue, so I’m not giving a formal legal opinion. However, I don’t think an inadvertent recording of a conversation among four people is a “work” of intellectual property for purposes of the copyright law. It isn’t like a book, a computer program, sheet music, or a musical recording. So I don’t think that concepts like copyright and public domain really apply to the recording in question.

    It is also known that Darnell himself sent out copies of the recording to Spectrum and others. From there it was heard by many people, and transcribed, and was ultimately heard by Ricardo Graham, who used it as the reason for demanding resignations from the four people whose conversation was recorded.

    Presumably, had the four chosen not to resign, the recording would have been featured prominently in any administrative action or faculty hearing to remove the four from their positions.

    Then, three of the people filed a lawsuit alleging that it was unlawful for Graham to use the recording as a basis to demand their resignations from various posts at La Sierra. The details of the recording will doubtless become known during the discovery process in the civil lawsuit.

    After the lawsuit was filed and became big news within the Adventist denomination, hundreds more people listened to the recording and have frequently commented about the particulars and details of the recording on public forums such as Spectrum’s website.

    So, at this point, I believe that the recording has become news, and very compelling news within the Seventh-day Adventist community of North America. Hence, I think that the recording may be posted and discussed by bloggers and news organizations under the protection of the First Amendment right of freedom of the press to report on, and blog about, public news stories. Since that is the case, a lawsuit filed or even threatened against such a blogger or news organization would probably cause the filer to be liable under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute.

    SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” and SLAPP suits frequently allege defamation, libel, slander and invasion of privacy. The California anti-SLAPP law was enacted to protect the petition and free speech rights of Californians.

    California’s anti-SLAPP statute provides for a special motion to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from activity exercising the rights of petition and free speech. In addition, SLAPP victims can recover their attorneys fees and other damages through a SLAPPback (malicious prosecution action) against the original SLAPP filers and their attorneys after the underlying SLAPP has been dismissed.

    The anti-SLAPP statute is designed to “level the playing field” and discourage entities with deep pockets from using the threat of lawsuit to intimidate smaller entities with limited ability to pay legal fees into choosing not to exercise their right of free speech and public participation.




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  6. The three in question do not contest that the recording fails to accurately detail the perfidy of their actions – rather they argue that the verbatim, accurate recording showing who they really are and what they actually did – should not be allowed to testify for or against them.

    That is the caliber of their argument and reflects transparently on their impact at LSU in general. Some would argue for “more of the same please”.

    And of course we all endorse the idea of “free will”. But the denomination should be allowed the “free will” to set the bar a bit higher than the standard those three are suggesting.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  7. Alexander Carpenter: Just a note about how Educate Truth operates. They currently have posted a photo from another site (Spectrum) without attribution to the photographer/author. I believe that’s called stealing.

    Hey Alex, Is Spectrum trying to get in on the “suing” game too?You’ve spent your entire career at PUC trying to undermind and destroy our SDA Church principles, while being PAID for it. That’s what I call “stealing!?




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  8. A quick look at today’s news re. the Supreme Court’s decision supporting the firing of a Lutheran church school teacher, based on the so-called “ministerial exception”, seems to provide general, if not specific support to the church’s defense against the LSU-3 suit. I am anxious to hear informed opinion/analysis re. this from David and others on this forum. In this new high court decision, could God have just opened the Red Sea for the defense in this case?

    Here are excerpts from the Washington Post report on this case:

    “Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time the Supreme Court had acknowledged such an exception. Requiring a religious group to accept or retain unwanted ministers, the justices said, deprives the group of “control over the selection of those will will personify its beliefs.”

    Perich had claimed that the exception did not pertain to her. She joined the school as a “lay teacher” and then underwent religious training. Perich agreed that she became a “called” teacher in 2000 and sometimes taught religious classes along with secular classes such as math, and she occasionally led chapel services. She estimated that the “religious” part of her school day was only about 45 minutes.

    But Roberts said there was little doubt that Perish was a member of church leadership. Such a determination “is not one that can be resolved by a stopwatch,” Roberts wrote.

    …. Employees of religious institutions, for example, might be retaliated against…

    He said those questions could be addressed when and if they arise. “We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct,” he wrote.

    He also said the court was not adopting “a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister.”




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  9. BUTAYL: Why isn’t anyone concerned about these three men suing God’s people.

    Isn’t there also something in those texts and quotes about it being better accept the loss than to sue? And aren’t we supposed to be careful to protect the weaker brother? So I could reverse this question. Since the organization is the stronger brother in this case, shouldn’t the church, according to scripture, be the one to accept the short end of the dispute and accept the loss? i.e. forgive their wayward employees and return them to their jobs?




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  10. David Read: Holly, as to whether we can discuss the details of the recording online, I think we can. The cat’s out of the bag, now. They’ve been discussing it at Spectrum for a long time, and they’re discussing it again today. A public court case where three employees have sued LaSierra and several other church affiliated entities makes the recording news. I think any threat to sue websites over that material would be a transparent attempt to muzzle a free press, and an obvious violation of California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which was drafted to protect people against being sued for exercising their First Amendment rights.But the final decision is obviously up to the moderator of this site.

    Well, Shane and Sean? Do we have permission?




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  11. Ron: Since the organization is the stronger brother in this case, shouldn’t the church, according to scripture, be the one to accept the short end of the dispute and accept the loss? i.e. forgive their wayward employees and return them to their jobs?

    There is no remorse, repentance or change of heart being claimed by the SDA leaders, professors that resigned.

    If they were to apply for a job at an SDA elementary or pre-school with their current disposition – I should hope those in charge would have the presence of mind to insist on a higher standard.

    Walter Veith is a good example of an all-for-evolutionism biology professor that has fully turned the corner on that false religion and has embraced true science rather than junk-science evolutionism.

    If any one of the three of them had had such a conversion experience from wrong-headed to right-thinking – it would be another matter entirely.

    As far as I can tell – the “best” that those three have mustered is the desire to be far more sly about their SDA-conflicted agenda if ever given another chance.

    Since when was that “the low bar criteria” used at one of our schools?

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  12. David Read:
    Holly, as to whether we can discuss the details of the recording online, I think we can.The cat’s out of the bag, now.They’ve been discussing it at Spectrum for a long time, and they’re discussing it again today.

    A public court case where three employees have sued LaSierra and several other church affiliated entities makes the recording news.I think any threat to sue websites over that material would be a transparent attempt to muzzle a free press, and an obvious violation of California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which was drafted to protect people against being sued for exercising their First Amendment rights.

    But the final decision is obviously up to the moderator of this site.

    Well, Shane? What about it?




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  13. Holly, I think Sean Pitman is moderating this site pretty much by himself. Shane Hilde is focusing his energies on a new site, Advindicate.com. I’ve written a couple of articles for that site.

    BTW, I stand by what I’ve said previously. California law is very protective of folks who are sued essentially to muzzle their First Amendment right of free speech, so I don’t think there is much danger in anyone suing Sean or Shane on the pretext that details of the recording are being discussed on this site. Anyone who did that would be more likely to end up with a judgment against himself than against Sean or Shane.




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