Peoples Temple vs. Tim Stoen

In July 1978, about a month after Tim Stoen filed the third of his three lawsuits against Peoples Temple and its leaders, the Temple fired back with a lawsuit of its own against its former attorney.

According to the Temple’s lawsuit, Stoen’s defection from the Temple – and his frustration in securing the custody of John Victor Stoen – had led to a “personal vendetta” against Temple leader Jim Jones and its leaders. His knowledge of the Temple’s legal workings helped him to document the legal actions he had recently taken, but it also represented a clear conflict of interest. In fact, most of the allegations made in the countersuit revolve around the fact that Stoen was either party to, gave counsel on, or was otherwise involved in the very actions which his more recent suits charged were actionable. In soliciting clients for cases against the Temple, Stoen “has used and continues to use confidential information received during the course of his attorney-client relationship with … Peoples Temple.”

The lawsuit then specified the actions Stoen took regarding Steven Katsaris, Wade and Mabel Medlock, and James Cobb, the plaintiffs in the three suits he had recently filed.

In addition to financial damages, the suit asked for a court order preventing Stoen from providing legal counsel to anyone associated with Peoples Temple, disclosing any information he learned while in the Temple, and “[p]rosecuting any  complaint already filed, which was filed in violation of the attorney-client privilege or the prohibition against accepting employment adverse to a former client.”

Charles Garry represented the Temple in this action. As were Stoen’s suits against the Temple, this case was still pending when the deaths occurred in Jonestown. In the petition seeking dissolution of the Temple filed in December 1978, Garry asked for guidance in how to proceed in all four suits. They were eventually dismissed.

Peoples Temple vs. Tim Stoen, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-31-b, pp. 74-88
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Last modified on November 6th, 2017.
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