Church Lawyer Alleges Ministry Bias

Source: Globe and Mail
Date: October 28, 1988

Premier David Peterson has been asked to appoint independent lawyers to prosecute the Church of Scientology, after allegations that the Attorney-General's Ministry is caught in a conflict of interest.

Lawyers for the church also asked the provincial auditor yesterday to examine the propriety of the ministry's having financed a civil suit launched by one of its own lawyers against the church and several media outlets.

Lawyers Clayton Ruby and Marlys Edwardh told a news conference the ministry has actively hidden the fact that it is paying for Crown counsel Casey Hill's libel suit.

The lawsuit, launched in 1984, has cost at least $47,000 so far. A ministry memo acquired by the church under freedom of information legislation indicates Mr. Casey will reimburse the ministry only if he wins his lawsuit.

In another memo distributed at the news conference, a senior ministry official discussed charging the bills to "some general fund within the ministry that should not be identified with the offices where these individuals work."

The church lawyers said the "secret" financing of the suit creates an intolerable conflict of interest which renders the ministry incapable of continuing the criminal prosecution.

"There has never been a case where an attorney-general's office had a financial stake in a lawsuit against anyone else they were prosecuting," Mr. Ruby said yesterday. "Not in Ontario, not in Canada, not anywhere. It is just not done. It is a shocking situation.

"It is important that somebody prosecuting does not have any animus, any bias, or any interest in hurting or destroying the accused."

Mr. Ruby said the Crown office faces numerous discretionary decisions during a criminal case. However, its impartiality is now tainted by the appearance that it has something at stake in the outcome of these cases.

Mr. Hill previously helped prosecute the Church of Scientology for theft of photocopied documents from Ontario government ministries. Several of its members also face charges in connection with the alleged thefts. The charges are at the preliminary hearing stage.

"The whole object of the thing is to have a free ride," Mr. Ruby said yesterday. "If they win, there is a windfall. If they lose, the taxpayers will pay. Why shouldn't they be like anyone else?"

In a letter to Attorney-General Ian Scott released yesterday, Mr. Ruby wrote: "You cannot sue and prosecute at the same time. It creates not merely the appearance of bias, but actual bias."

Mr. Ruby told reporters Mr. Hill has refused, during examinations for discovery in the lawsuit, to answer questions about the financing of his case.

Some of the internal ministry memoranda the Scientologists obtained reveal discussion among officials over where to get the money to pay for Mr. Hill's suit.

Among the documents is a cheque to Mr. Hill's law firm drawn on the ministry's account "C"O G. Moyer, Travel"Claims." The cheque was to cover almost $48,000 in legal expenses incurred in Mr. Hill's suit, Mr. Ruby said.

"That is a singularly uninformative notation to find on a cheque, wouldn't you say?"

Robert Wyatt, director of communications for the ministry, said the issue of the cheque is "a red herring."

Mr. Wyatt said Mr. Moyer is the head of a branch of the ministry's financial department. The name appears on the cheque to ensure its return to Mr. Moyer after being issued, enabling him to forward it to the law firm.

Mr. Wyatt said he did not know whether most cheques for legal expenses routinely go through Mr. Moyer.

"I do not think we are hiding this at all," he said. "I do not see what the issue is."

TORONTO IN BRIEF Libel trial hears of settlement

TORONTO An Ontario Court jury trying a senior Crown attorney's libel suit against the Church of Scientology and Toronto lawyer Morris Manning has been told the terms of an out-of-court settlement of a related suit against two television networks and The Globe and Mail. Casey Hill launched the lawsuit after Mr. Manning told a 1984 press conference of plans to charge Mr. Hill and another government lawyer with contempt of court. The charges, summarily dismissed later that year, alleged the lawyers had been involved in a successful bid for a court order for access to Scientology records that another court had ordered sealed. Mr. Hill testified that in the settlement, reached on Aug. 29, The Globe and the CBC and CTV television networks apologized and agreed to pay $50,000 toward his legal costs. In identically worded apologies, each said they had reported the press conference in good faith, only to find out later that the information was "incorrect and not substantiated," and they regretted any embarrassment caused to Mr. Hill.