On May 21, 2009, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled against Diskeeper’s Motion for summary judgment in its case against Godelman and Le Shay, although it did find for Diskeeper in part by preemptively removing the availability of punitive damages from the case, likely to prompt settlement. Jury trial is now set for July 13, 2009 [PDF], and is estimate to run 14 days. The Court issued separate rulings(Godelman ruling [PDF]; Le Shay ruling [PDF]) with regard to Diskeeper’s summary judgment motion to reflect the minor factual differences in the plaintiffs’ cases. One other difference is that the Court accepted Diskeeper’s argument that Godelman failed to show that he sought a reasonable accommodation in lieu of of Hubbard Management Technology.
But the news is largely good insofar as a jury is now scheduled to decide (amongst other things) whether Hubbard Management Technology is religious in nature. An adverse ruling for Diskeeper will greatly decrease the ability of other Scientology front groups to intrude into various secular spheres.
I don’t have the time to delve too deeply into the Court’s rulings, but I did perform some light research into a matter which seemed odd to me: that being the Court’s having removed punitive damages as an available remedy before trial. In American Airlines v. Sheppard, the state appeals court ruled that California’s “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard for punitive damages “does not impose on a plaintiff the obligation to ‘prove’ a case for punitive damages at summary judgment.” In other words, the Court prematurely ruled on punitive damages, which may yet be borne out at trial. I’m not a California lawyer, however, and so it’s not clear how this will play out.
For now, however, we can look forward to a trial.