Peoples Temple vs. Tim Stoen (Text)

CHARLES R. GARRY, ESQ.
GARRY, DREYFUS, MCTERNAN, BROTSKY, HERNDON & PESONEN, INC.
1256 Market Street at Civic Center
San Francisco, California 94102
Telephone: 864 3131

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA
IN AND FOR THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, a nonprofit corporation, JEAN F. BROWN, and JAMES MCELVANE,
Plaintiffs,

vs.

TIMOTHY OLIVER STOEN,
Defendant.

No.
Complaint for temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and damages (C.C. §§3333, 3422; C.C.P. §§ 526, 527)

Plaintiffs allege:

I

Plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, hereinafter “PEOPLES TEMPLE,” is, and at all times mentioned herein was, a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of California, with its principal place of business in the City and County of San Francisco. Plaintiffs BROWN and MCELVANE are individuals and are members of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE.

II

Defendant is, and at all times mentioned herein was, an attorney at law with his office in the City and County of San Francisco.

III

Defendant served as chief legal counsel for plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE from 1970 until approximately August of 1977. He represented plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE in various litigation matters, drafted various legal documents for plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, drafted amendments to PEOPLES TEMPLE corporate articles, drafted PEOPLES TEMPLE’s corporate bylaws, wrote numerous letters on behalf of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, and negotiated numerous transactions, including real estate transactions, on behalf of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, as its attorney. As legal counsel he routinely gave legal advice to the Board of Directors, officers and members of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, including plaintiffs BROWN and MCELVANE.

IV

During his years as legal counsel to plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, and in the course of the attorney-client relationship between plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE and defendant, defendant acquired an intimate knowledge of the confidential affairs of each of the plaintiffs. Defendant obtained confidential information concerning all aspects of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE’s organization, finances, real estate transactions, methods of operation, and relationships with members, former members, and relatives of members.

V

In his capacity as legal counsel for plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, defendant planned, guided and arranged various real estate transactions between it and its members. In particular, defendant planned, advised and arranged the transfer of certain real estate property in the County of Los Angeles from Wade B. Medlock and Mabel M. Medlock to plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE.

VI

In his capacity as legal counsel for plaintiff, defendant counseled and advised members of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE concerning possible legal problems that might arise as a result of the hostility of some of their relatives to plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE. In particular, he advised member Maria Katsaris concerning possible legal problems that might arise because of her father’s hostile attitude towards plaintiff. During the course of his consultations with Maria Katsaris, as attorney for plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, defendant obtain confidential information concerning her relationship with her father, STEVEN A. KATSARIS, and certain sexual advances made by her father towards her when she was a child. In April or May, 1977, defendant advised plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE and Maria Katsaris that she should go to Guyana to avoid the possibility of her father’s instituting conservatorship proceedings against her and that, in the event her father should pursue her to Guyana, the sexual advances towards her by her father should be made public.

VII

In February 1977 defendant STOEN joined Reverend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple commune in Guyana, South America. In September 1976 defendant had sent John Victor Stoen, a four-year-old boy born to defendant’s ex-wife, Grace Stoen, there. Defendant had previously admitted, in an affidavit signed in 1972, that this child was the son of Jim Jones. In that affidavit defendant stated that he had asked Jones to sire a child for him because he had not been able to do so himself and, in his admiration and respect for Jones, wanted him to father the child. See Exhibits C-1, C-2 and C-3, attached hereto.

VIII

During the period in which defendant was a member of and legal counsel for PEOPLES TEMPLE, he appeared and said he was devoted to the PEOPLES TEMPLE and its cause, and to its Pastor, the Reverend Jim Jones. As late as August 1977, he stated that he had esteem for Jones and that Jones helped him to develop an empathy toward the persecuted. As a result defendant said that he intended to develop a national law firm to help people who are prosecuted on some pretect [pretext], for their religious beliefs. At that time, defendant STOEN threatened to file a libel suit against New West Magazine and the Mendocino Grapevine because of various allegations against the PEOPLES TEMPLE and STOEN that appeared in those publications. See Exhibits A and B attached hereto.

IX

In August 1977, while still counsel for the plaintiff, a custody battle ensued between defendant, his ex-wife Grace Stoen, and the Reverend Jim Jones. This battle was accompanied by a great deal of publicity. In February 1978 defendant STOEN claimed to have spent over $18,000 in the attempt to return the boy to Grace Stoen. See Exhibit D, attached hereto. During this battle the affidavit described in Paragraph VII, supra, was made public.

X

The battle described in Paragraph IX, supra, engendered feelings of great bitterness and hostility in defendant STOEN, directed towards Jim Jones, the PEOPLES TEMPLE, and all of its directors, officers and members. As a result of the bitterness and hostility engendered by this custody battle, defendant began a personal vendetta against Jones, the Temple, its directors and officers and all of its members, including plaintiffs herein. The actions described in the following paragraphs of this Complaint were all taken as a part of this personal vendetta.

XI

Defendant has solicited and continues to solicit, and has accepted and continues to accept, employment which is adverse to the interests of plaintiffs and each of them, and in the course of that solicitation and employment has used and continues to use confidential information received during the course of his attorney-client relationship with plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE.

XII

On May 22, 1978 defendant filed a complaint for compensatory and punitive damages for libel on its face and for slander, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Mendocino, Civil Action #39911, on behalf of Steven A. Katsaris, against, among others, plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE. The allegations of the complaint concern the relationship between Maria Katsaris and her father, Steven A. Katsaris, and various statements allegedly made concerning that relationship. See Exhibit E attached hereto.

XIII

On June 7, 1978, defendant filed a complaint for compensatory and punitive damages for conversion based on coercion and for intentional infliction of emotional distress, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Los Angeles, Civil Action #243292. The complaint was filed on behalf of Wade B. Medlock and Mabel M. Medlock against, among others, plaintiffs PEOPLES TEMPLE and MCELVANE. The subject matter of that action is a real estate transaction referred to in Paragraph V, supra. See Exhibit F attached hereto.

XIV

On June 22, 1978 defendant filed a complaint for compensatory and punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for libel on its face, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the City and County of San Francisco, Civil Action #739907. That complaint was filed on behalf of James Cobb, Jr., against, among others, plaintiffs PEOPLES TEMPLE and BROWN. The allegations of that complaint concern various incidents about which defendant obtained confidential information during the course of his attorney-client relationship with plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE. See Exhibit G attached hereto.

XV

Defendant utilized confidential information obtained during the course of his attorney-client relationship with plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE in drafting the complaint described in Paragraphs XII-XIV supra, and will continue to use such confidential information in the prosecution of those actions unless and until he is enjoined by court order from so doing.

XVI

Defendant’s wrongful conduct, as alleged in the preceding paragraphs of this Complaint, unless and until enjoined and restrained by orders of this Court, will cause great and irreparable injury to plaintiffs and each of them in that each of the reputations will be damaged by the publicity generated by suits brought against them by defendant in the course of his campaign of harassment and persecution, plaintiffs and each of them will be forced to spend countless hours in the defense of the suits, and plaintiffs and each of them will be prejudiced in the defense of these actions by defendant’s wrongful and illegal use of confidential information in the prosecution of the suits. Plaintiffs and each of them will be further irreparably injured by the fact that confidential information concerning them is being made public by defendant.

XVI

Plaintiffs and each of them have no adequate remedy at law for the injuries currently being suffered and which will continue to be suffered unless and until plaintiff is enjoined from his wrongful conduct, since it will be impossible for plaintiffs or any of them to ascertain the precise amounts of damage which will be suffered if defendant’s wrongful conduct is not enjoined, and since, if defendant is not enjoined, plaintiffs and each of them will be forced to institute a multiplicity of suits to obtain adequate compensation for their injuries.

XVII

As a proximate result of defendant’s wrongful conduct plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE has been damaged in the sum of $50,000,000.00 due to damage to its reputation and in the sum of $500,000.00 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiffs, and each of them, will be further damaged in like manner so long as defendant’s conduct continues. The full amount of such damages is not now known to plaintiffs, or to any of them.

XVIII

Defendant did the things herein alleged with intent to harass and oppress plaintiffs and each of them, and such acts were done maliciously and oppressively. Plaintiffs, and each of them, are therefore entitled to punitive damages in the sum of $100,000,000.00.

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs, and each of them, pray judgment against defendant as follows:

    1. For an order requiring defendant to show cause, if any he has, why he should not be enjoined as hereinafter set forth, during the pendency of this action;

    2. For a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction, all enjoining defendant and his agents, servants, and employees, and all persons acting under, in concert with, or for them from:

      a. Soliciting personal employment from ex-members of PEOPLES TEMPLE, relatives of members of PEOPLES TEMPLE, or from any other persons for the purpose of generating suits against plaintiffs or any of them or against any officers, directors, or members of plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE;

      b. Accepting professional employment adverse to his former client PEOPLES TEMPLE or to any directors, officers or members of PEOPLES TEMPLE, including all plaintiffs herein, during the course of which employment he will have or might have occasion to use any confidential information obtained during the course of the attorney-client relationship between defendant and PEOPLES TEMPLE.

      c. Disclosing under what circumstances any confidential information obtained during the course of the attorney-client relationship between defendant and PEOPLES TEMPLE, and between defendant and any officers, directors or members of PEOPLES TEMPLE, including all plaintiffs herein, unless such disclosure is with the written consent of the PEOPLES TEMPLE.

      d. Prosecuting 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, during the course of which the defendant will have, or might have, occasion to use any confidential information obtained during the course of the attorney-client relationship between defendant and PEOPLES TEMPLE.

    3. For damages in the sum of $50,500,000.00 plus damage in such further sums as may be sustained and as are ascertained before final judgment herein;

    4. For punitive damages in the sum of $100,000,000.00;

    5. For costs of suit here in incurred; and

    6. For such other and further relief as the Court deems proper.

Dated: July [date left blank], 1978.

[Signature line blank]
CHARLES R. GARRY
Attorney for Defendants

* * * * * *

MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

I. PLAINTIFFS ARE ENTITLED TO A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO PRESERVE THE STATUS QUO PENDING A DETERMINATION OF THE MERITS OF THIS ACTION.

In determining whether to grant supplementary injunction the trial court must balance the equities and determine which party is more likely to be injured by the exercise of its discretion. The discretion must then be exercised in favor of that party. Continental Bakery Co. v. Katz, 68 Cal. 2d 512 at 528 (1968); California State Univ., Hayward v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n., 47 Cal. App. 3d 533 at 544 (1975).

In the above-entitled case the equities are clearly on the side of plaintiff. The facts, as set forth in the Complaint and in the Declaration of Carol Stahl, show that defendant STOEN is engaged in a personal vendetta against the plaintiff PEOPLES TEMPLE, the Reverend Jim Jones, and all of the other plaintiffs herein. In the course of that vendetta he has solicited, and continues to solicit, professional employment adverse to his former clients, plaintiffs herein, in the course of which he has disclosed, and will continue to disclose, confidential information obtained during the course of his attorney-client relationship with plaintiffs. This conduct is prohibited by California Business and Professions Code Section 6068(e), which states:

    It is the duty of an attorney:…

    (e) To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself and preserve the secrets, of his client.

The conduct engaged in by defendant and described in the Complaint and Declaration of Carol Stahl in the within-entitled case is also prohibited by California State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 2-101, 2-110, and 4-101. Rule 2-101 states in pertinent part:

    A member of the State Bar shall not solicit professional employment by advertisement or otherwise.

Rule 2-110 states:

    A member of the State Bar shall not accept employment to accomplish any of the following objectives, nor shall he do so if he knows or should know that the person who employs him wishes to accomplish any of the following purposes:

    (1) Bring a legal action, conduct a defense, or assert a position in litigation, or otherwise take steps, solely for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring any person or to prosecute or defend a case solely out of spite.

    (2) Present a claim or defense in litigation that is not warranted under existing law, unless it can be supported by good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

    (3) Take or prosecute an appeal solely for delay, or for any other reason not in good faith.

Rule 4-101 states:

    A member of the State Bar shall not accept employment adverse to a client or former client, without the informed and written consent of the client or former client, relating to the matter in reference to which he has obtained confidential information by reason of or in the course of his employment by such client or former client.

An attorney is forbidden to do either of two things after severing his relationship with a former client. He may not do anything which will injuriously affect his former client in any matter in which he formerly represented him nor may he at any time use against his former client knowledge or information acquired by virtue of the previous relationship. Wutchumma Water Co. v. Bailey, 216 Cal. 564 at 573 (1932); Sheffield v. State Bar, 22 Cal. 2d 627 at 630 (1943); Earl Scheib, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 253 Cal. App. 2d 703 at 706.

The courts have interpreted these rules to forbid subsequent representation of another against the former client not merely when the attorney will be called upon to use confidential information obtained in the course of the former employment, but in every case when, by reason of such subsequent employment, he may be called upon to use such confidential information. Galbraith v. State Bar, 218 Cal. 329 at 332-333 (1933); Sheffield v. State Bar, supra at 630; Earl Scheib, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, supra at 707.

The injunction sought herein seeks only to restrain defendant from engaging in conduct which is clearly prohibited by Business and Professions Code Section 6068 (e) and Rules 2-101, 2-110, and 4-101 of the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, as those Rules have been interpreted by the California Supreme Court. This restraint is necessary to prevent further damage to plaintiffs from defendant’s disclosure of confidential information and the adverse publicity generated by that disclosure. The injunction is also necessary to protect the plaintiffs from the necessity of defending themselves against suits filed only as a result of the unethical conduct of defendant.

The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo pending the final determination of the merits of the action. Continental Bakery Co., supra at 528, United States Hertz, Inc. v. Niobrara Farms, 41 Cal. App. 3d 68 at 79 (1974). Such preservation is obviously crucial in this case. Defendant filed three suits in the course of the thirty day period between May 22 and June 22, 1978. If he is not restrained by court order, he will continue to solicit adverse employment and to file suits against plaintiff, all to the detriment of plaintiff’s reputation, and to the damage through the disclosure of confidential information, and the expenditure of time, money and energy in defense of the suits. The status quo can be preserved only by the issuance of the court order requested herein.

II. PLAINTIFFS ARE ENTITLED TO A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, BECAUSE PLAINTIFFS WILL SUFFER IRREPARABLE INJURY UNLESS DEFENDANT IS RESTRAINED BY COURT ORDER, PENDING A HEARING ON THIS MATTER, FROM THE ACTIONS COMPLAINED OF HEREIN.

C.C.P. §527(a) provides that a temporary restraining order may be granted without notice where great or irreparable inury [injury] would result to the applicant before the matter can be heard on notice.

Defendant in this case is involved in a personal vendetta against plaintiffs. In the course of this endeavor he has already filed three suits against plaintiffs and has disclosed much confidential information concerning plaintiffs. Only one of these complaints has been served upon any of the plaintiffs to this date. But if defendant is not immediately restrained from proceeding with a vendetta pending a hearing on this matter, he may succeed in serving plaintiffs with the remaining two complaints, which will generate further damaging publicity. If not restrained, he may also disclose further confidential information and file further suits, all to the irreparable injury of plaintiffs and each of them, as described above and in the Declaration of Stahl.

CONCLUSION

For all of the reasons stated above, plaintiffs respectfully request that the Temporary Restraining Order and the Order to Show Cause attached hereto issue forthwith.

Originally posted on May 17th, 2013.

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