Leah Remini's 2024 centers on her bombshell defamation and harassment lawsuit against the Church of Scientology.
Back-to-back hearings in the civil case
On Jan. 16, there was a three-hour hearing in the case at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles. Judge Randolph M. Hammock tentatively ruled in the Church of Scientology's favor that some of the King of Queens actress and Scientology critic's defamation claims would be stricken from the lawsuit, according to Courthouse News Service.
However, most of her harassment claims would remain in place — and the case would proceed. The hearing was continued to Friday, when it will pick up again.
Hammock is also determining whether to grant Remini an injunction — which would bar the organization from openly criticizing her while this case plays out. He said he likely will not issue the injunction, but asked her legal team to present a recent example of the organization's harassment to help him decide.
Hammock said that going through the Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology author's 68-page complaint, allegation by allegation, was "probably the hardest I've ever worked on a particular motion" in his 15 years on the bench. Hammock is considering the defense's attempt to gut Remini's case, arguing that it falls under free speech.
Hammock said that many of Remini's defamation claims don't fall within the one-year statute of limitations, meaning they will likely be stricken from the lawsuit. Others she cited are matters of opinion, not fact, so they are not "actionable." For example, the organization bashed Remini in an open letter when she was hired as a game show host, writing on a Scientology website devoted to Remini criticism, "What’s next? A game show 'hosted' by a KKK leader? Neo-Nazi Jeopardy?" Hammock said while the statement was "not very nice," it's the organization's "right under the First Amendment." However, some defamation claims will likely survive, including that the organization "used and manipulated" Remini's estranged and now-dead father and his third wife to "make false statements about Ms. Remini," calling her a liar and saying she wouldn't pay for his cancer treatments. The judge said that the church could have published them with "a reckless disregard of the facts."
As far as Remini's harassment claims, Hammock said they're unlikely to be thrown out. Remini's allegations included that the organization installed surveillance technology on her neighbor’s home to spy on her. The church is trying to dismiss those allegations, citing "pre-litigation surveillance," which is "protected conduct" in their motion, but the judge didn't see it that way. "The court sees no public interest in the surveillance of private citizens — even celebrities — under an unsupported suspicion that litigation may occur at some later time," he wrote.
Hammock also said he'd likely allow at least some of Remini's claims that the church interfered with her business relationships, citing iHeartRadio and AudioBoom through which she broadcast her podcasts, including the Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath Podcast. While the organization can exercise free speech rights ... it cannot "send agents to harass the podcast’s producers and staff to the point that they feared for their safety," the judge wrote.
The lawsuit is against the Church of Scientology International, a branch of the organization called the Religious Technology Center (RTC) and its leader David Miscavige. A lawyer for the RTC argued that the lawsuit didn't specifically connect the RTC to the stalking and harassment, so it should be removed as a defendant, according to journalist Tony Ortega, who was in court. Remini's lawyers were told to present connections between the harassment and the RTC or the RTC could be removed as a defendant.
Remini is seeking an injunction to stop the defendants from "continued stalking, harassing and otherwise unlawful interference" as this lawsuit plays out. Hammock said he was leaning against granting it, but asked her team to bring proof of the most recent example of the Church of Scientology harassing her.
Back in court
On Jan. 19, the hearing will pick up where it left off with the judge determining whether to strike the defamation claims. There's also a hearing on whether Remini will be granted the preliminary injunction and a hearing on requests for media coverage of the case.
What's this lawsuit all about?
In 2013, Remini left the Church of Scientology — of which she was a 35-year member — over growing discontent with its principles and the practices of high-ranking members. She became one of its chief critics, writing a book about it as well as creating shows and podcasts delving into the allegations swirling around the controversial group. The church fought back, creating an entire website devoted to Remini attacks.
In September, Remini filed her bombshell lawsuit against the organization — of which Tom Cruise, John Travolta and the now-incarcerated Danny Masterson are famous members — and leader Miscavige. She claimed that she has been "stalked, surveilled, harassed, threatened, intimidated" and is the victim of "intentional malicious and fraudulent rumors" over her criticism of the organization. Among her claims is that she was punished for her behavior at Cruise's 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes and was held afterward at a Scientology facility for four months.
To make amends, she had to make monetary donations to things Cruise would like. She estimates she spent $5 million during her time as a Scientologist on programs and donations. She also claimed a mentally ill man has been paid by the Church of Scientology to surveil her. (Read her most jaw-dropping claims.)
What has the Church of Scientology said about her lawsuit?
The organization called her lawsuit "ludicrous" and "frivolous" and the allegations within it "pure lunacy." It branded her a "horrible person and toxic to so many who have the misfortune to come in contact with her." (Read its statement.)