Scientology Church seeks SCOTUS review of Masterson rape case
Attorneys for the Church of Scientology say they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a lower court’s decision to avoid internal arbitration and proceed to trial in the Danny Masterson rape case.
The petition for review will be filed July 19, the church lawyers state in court papers filed Thursday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven J. Kleifield. In April, the state Supreme Court declined to review the Jan. 19 decision by three justices of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
“Consistent with the parties’ and the court’s repeated agreements to stay the proceedings, the case should remain stayed pending resolution of the petition for (petition for review) and any subsequent proceedings in the United States Supreme Court,” the Scientology lawyers argue in their court papers.
Plaintiffs Chrissie Carnell Bixler; her husband, Cedrick Bixler-Zavala; Marie Bobette Riales and two “Jane Does” allege in their suit filed in August 2019 that they were stalked by Masterson after they reported to police that the “That ’70s Show” actor had raped the women.
In their opinion, the state appellate court justices found that the plaintiffs, who are suing for stalking, invasion of privacy and emotional distress, have a First Amendment right to leave a religious organization and are not bound by the church’s arbitration rules since their allegations occurred after they left the faith.
The plaintiffs sought relief from the appellate court after Kleifield ruled in December 2020 that they were required to arbitrate their claims internally with the church. The plaintiffs have also sought to stay the case pending the outcome of the criminal case against the 46-year-old Masterson, but the church opposes that request.
Updated June 17, 2022, 11:38 p.m.