Scientology Boss David Miscavige Gets Judge Knocked Off Sex Assault Lawsuit

After nearly a year of allegedly ducking service of a lawsuit claiming child sexual abuse in his organization, Scientology leader David Miscavige sent his lawyer to a Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday to seek disqualification of the judge on the matter using a peremptory challenge — a special right that doesn’t require a reason and is allowed only within the first few days of appearing in a legal matter for the first time.

The surprise move came after the judge issued a notable proposed ruling in favor of the Jane Doe plaintiff on the eve of the major Tuesday hearing. The tentative ruling, described as “stunning” by longtime Scientology watchdog Tony Ortega, found that the religious arbitration contract signed by the plaintiff — in which she agreed to submit all future disputes with the church to an ecclesiastical tribunal directed by Scientology — was so one-sided that it was “unconscionable and therefore unenforceable under California law.”

As soon as the court revealed Miscavige’s peremptory challenge, lawyers for the Jane Doe questioned the church leader’s motives and argued that he shouldn’t be allowed to swoop in and disqualify the judge considering the court already had ruled on “substantive issues” in the case.

“The timing of this is highly suspicious,” plaintiff lawyer Carmen Scott told Judge Robert B. Broadbelt.

Miscavige’s lawyer wasn’t present for the hearing, but Judge Broadbelt ruled that Miscavige’s filing of the peremptory challenge appeared “timely,” so he had no choice but to step aside and send the case to a different department to be reassigned to a new judicial officer.

In her underlying lawsuit filed in December 2022, the Jane Doe plaintiff alleges that she was born into the Church of Scientology in 1974 and was a 16-year-old member of its elite Sea Org when a male church member sexually assaulted her. She alleges the church forced her to marry the man in Las Vegas while she was still a minor and that she was subsequently coerced into intercourse with him. She alleges it wasn’t until she was 23 years old that she finally was “able to escape” both the man and the church, along with her young daughter. Her lawsuit alleges church officials “created a culture in which sexual abuse was allowed to occur, tolerated, and not reported.”

Lawyers for the church responded to the complaint by arguing that the Jane Doe had signed a binding contract “forever abandoning” her right to sue and agreeing to have any disputes resolved in a private religious arbitration system. They filed a motion to compel the arbitration, which the plaintiff opposed. The judge weighed in with his tentative ruling on Monday night, publishing it on the court’s website. The proposed ruling stated that the First Amendment — long invoked by the church to protect its system of religious arbitration — did not offer a complete shield to every unconscionability challenge. The judge took particular issue with language in the arbitration agreement that was “binding only on plaintiff,” without being “an otherwise mutual arbitration provision” obligating the church to give up its rights to sue.


“The court finds that plaintiff has established a high level of substantive unconscionability by showing that the arbitration provision set forth in the agreement lacks mutuality and is so one-sided as to shock the conscience,” Judge Broadbelt wrote. “The court finds that plaintiff has met her burden to show that the arbitration agreement is unconscionable and therefore unenforceable.”

The Jane Doe plaintiff also was a victim in the Danny Masterson serial rape case that ended with the actor’s conviction. She further is a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit against Masterson and the church alleging harassment. An early ruling in that case compelled religious arbitration. It was overturned on appeal in an unpublished opinion, which found the church’s right to resolve disputes without court intervention had to take a backseat to the women’s First Amendment right “to leave the faith.” That lawsuit is now back in civil court and proceeding to trial.