United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
MARIA DEL ROCIO BURGOS GARCIA, and LUIS A. GARCIA SAZ, Plaintiffs,
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY FLAG SERVICE ORGANIZATION, INC., CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY FLAG SHIP SERVICE ORGANIZATION, INC., Defendants.
D. WHITTEMORE JUDGE
THE COURT are Plaintiffs' Amended Motion to
Vacate Arbitration Awards (Dkt. 272) and Defendants'
response (Dkt. 275). Upon consideration, Plaintiffs'
Motion is DENIED.
arbitration of the Garcias' claims for fraud, breach of
contract, and violations of the Deceptive and Unfair Trade
Practices Act took place on October 23 and 24, 2017 before a
panel of three Scientologists in good standing. On the first day,
the International Justice Chief ("IJC") provided
the arbitrators with written instructions (Dkt. 275-3),
Scientology policies on justice procedures, a copy of the
Garcias' statement of claims and complaint (Dkt. 275-2),
the letter from the Claims Verification Board
("CVB") denying the Garcias' claims for refunds
of payments for services and a return of donations (Dkt.
275-2), and copies of the enrollment agreements signed by the
Garcias. (Declaration of Mike Ellis, Dkt. 275-1 at
¶¶ 6-8). The instructions listed the Garcias'
claims as follows:
Returns of advance donations (repayment) for services and
payments for accommodations, as follows:
A. $37, 413.56 from the Church of Scientology Flag Service
Org (FSO) for services and religious retreat accommodations
the Garcias did not avail themselves of.
B. $31, 445.45 from the Church of Scientology Flag Ship
Service Org (FSSO) for services and religious retreat
accommodations the Garcias did not avail themselves of.
C. $ 10, 000 from the Church of Scientology of Orange County
(Orange County Org) for donations for services the Garcias
did not avail themselves of.
$40, 410 from the International Association of Scientologists
(IAS) and U.S. IAS Members Trust (USIMT) for membership
$340, 000 from the Church of Scientology Religious Trust
(CSRT) for donations to the Super Power project (Flag
$510, 000 from Orange County Org for donations to the Ideal
arbitrators were instructed that the arbitration was "to
be conducted in strict accordance with Scientology ethics and
justice policies," and were provided the relevant
policies. (Dkt. 275-4 at 1). They were instructed "to
determine whether the Garcias followed the refund procedures
required by policy," that the key policy was the
"RELIGIOUS SERVICES ENROLLMENT APPLICATION AGREEMENT AND
GENERAL RELEASE (the Enrollment Form)," and to determine
whether the Garcias' requests for refunds were valid, and
if so, in what amount. (Id.) The IJC was to operate
as a terminal for Suppressive Persons, like the Garcias, and
resolve any questions of relevance of information submitted
to the arbitrators. (Id. at 2). The arbitrators were
instructed to "conduct th[e] arbitration in a fair and
neutral manner, notwithstanding the Garcias have been
Garcias proffered a number of documents to the IJC as
evidence in support of their claims for consideration by the
arbitrators. Consistent with Church policy, the IJC resolved
the relevance of Plaintiffs' documents, and disallowed or
redacted several of those documents. (Dkt. 275-1 at ¶9;
Affidavit of Luis Garcia, Dkt. 272-3 at 9-10). On the second
day, the arbitrators met with the Garcias, questioned them,
and permitted them to address the panel and present, if they
wished. (Dkt. 275-1 at ¶ 12; Dkt. 272-3 at 11-16).
provided the arbitrators with two forms to complete, a
"Religious Arbitration Findings Form" on which to
answer "yes" or "no" to specific
questions about the Garcias' claims, and a
"Religious Arbitration Decision Form" on which to
answer "yes" or "no" to the questions of
whether they were entitled to repayments and refunds of
donations and advance payments, and if so, the amount. (Dkt.
275-1 at ¶ 14; Dkts. 275-6, 275-7).
arbitrators awarded the Garcias $18, 495.36 for repayments
for accommodations at religious retreats they did not avail
themselves of. (Dkt. 275-7 at 2). The IJC accepted the
decision, which was ...