Letter of May 28, 1980

A Law Corporation
722 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, California 94111

May 28, 1980

G. Donald Beck
P.O. Box 1012
Ukiah, CA 95482

    Re: Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ v. The Attorney General of the State of California. Claim #602

Dear Mr. Beck:

As stated in your letter you received from our office a few days ago, the Receiver of the Peoples Temple filed his report with the Superior Court making recommendations for the disposition of all claims against the Temple. Our last letter to you concerned your wrongful death claim(s). This letter concerns your other claim(s) against the Temple.

As you know, the Receiver has denied legal liability for all claims, with the exception of certain of the burial expense claims, and extended compromise offers to wrongful death claimants, such as yourself. With respect to almost all other types of claims, including yours for property and service donations and breach of life care contract, the Receiver has recommended no compromise offer be made.

Wrongful death claimants have been extended compromise offers totaling 97% of the available Temple assets. It is therefore clear that these claimants have been very favorably treated by the Receiver. Since you are also a wrongful death claimant, you are entitled to share in the Temple assets to the extent of the Receiver’s certificate offered to you for that claim. Although your other claim(s) have been denied, you will be among those claimants who share in the distribution of 97% of the Temple assets.

We recommend that you not pursue your non-wrongful death claims for several reasons. First of all, should you decide to pursue these other claims and seek to litigate them, the whole settlement and distribution process could be delayed as many as three more years. That means delayed distribution not only to non-wrongful death claimants, but to all claimants. No money will be distributed until all claims are concluded.

Secondly, if you choose to pursue your non-wrongful death claims, any money you may be able to recover will diminish which you have already been offered to compromise your wrongful death claim. Since 97% of the total Temple assets have been awarded to wrongful death claimants [Sentence incomplete in original]. If property and contract claims were pursued and litigated and, in aggregate, awarded, for example, 30% of the total Temple assets, wrongful death claimants could then receive, at the very most, 70%. This means the value of the Receiver’s certificate(s) already offered to you for your wrongful death claim(s) would be reduced by nearly 30%, with no guarantee that any award for property or contract claims would make up the difference, or that liability could even be proven. The great expense involved in litigation would diminish the total assets even further.

Finally, because the Receiver’s proposed distribution plan is very favorable to wrongful death claimants, we have, as you know, recommended acceptance of the compromise offers and approval of the plan by all of our wrongful death clients. We cannot at the same time support the Receiver in his recommendation for wrongful death claims and oppose the Receiver in his refusal to give offers of compromise to you and others who have raised similar contract or property claims since to do so would diminish both the share and actual amount of assets available for those of our clients who have raised wrongful death claims. This also goes for individual clients who have raised both types of claims. Under the rules of professional conduct promulgated by the State Bar, no attorney may represent clients with conflicting interests, nor, as a practical matter, can we vigorously represent conflicting interests.

Therefore, if you wish to pursue your claim(s) for and adjudicate it/them under the procedures set up by the Superior Court, you should obtain the services of another attorney for those claims. (We can continue to represent you and your claim for wrongful death.) Certainly other attorneys are representing other people with property and contract claims. These lawyers are prepared to take on new property and contract claims such as yours. If you would like to pursue this claim, please call this office and we will provide you with the names of attorneys who are willing to continue to represent you in this/these claim(s).

Enclosed is an authorization, similar to the one you received with the last letter, but including authorization for this office to discontinue representing you in your non-wrongful death claims. Please sign the form and return it to us in the enclosed, self-addressed, stamped envelope as quickly as possible. We must have your response by June 1, if we are to have adequate time to make a proper response to the court by June 4. If you have not received this letter in time to return your authorization by June 1, 1980, please call our office to let us know your intention to sign the authorization. It is also important that you do not delay in obtaining new counsel if you wish to pursue your non-wrongful death claims. Otherwise, you may forfeit your right to have the claim(s) adjudicated in the Superior Court.

Very truly yours,
[signed] David H. Schwartz

Originally posted on May 24th, 2013.

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