CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA and Founding Church of Scientology of
Washington, D. C., Plaintiffs,
James SIEGELMAN, Flo Conway, J. B. Lippincott Company and Morris Deutsch,
No. 79 Civ. 1166(GLG).
United States District Court, S. D. New York.
Dec. 19, 1979.
Two branches of religious organization existing inside and outside United
States brought libel action against, among others, former member. Former
member filed motion to reargue many of issues previously decided in prior
opinion, 475 F.Supp. 950. The District Court, Goettel, J., held that: (1)
it could not be said, as matter of law, that plaintiffs would not be able to
prove that alleged defamatory language related to limited group of
organization's churches existing in United States, and thus show that alleged
defamation related to these plaintiffs, so as to make out a cause of action for
libel, and (2) former member's counterclaims brought under federal statute
prohibiting conspiracy to deprive persons of their constitutional rights had to
Motion to reargue denied.
 LIBEL AND SLANDER
In order to make out a cause of action for libel a plaintiff must establish
that alleged defamatory remark was directed at some specific individual or
group and not merely at an "indeterminate class."--
 LIBEL AND SLANDER
In libel action brought against former member by two branches of religious
organization existing in and outside United States, allegations in complaint,
concerning whether allegedly defamatory language related to limited group
consisting of organization's churches existing in United States, were
sufficient to state a cause of action for libel.
In libel action brought by two branches of religious organization against
former member, court, having been presented with no compelling reason why its
previous result should be modified or reversed, reaffirmed its conclusion that
overbroad class, which had been characterized as consisting of members, former
members, and persons disseminating information about organization, but which in
essence was made up of persons who were critics of organization, was not formed
on basis of any invidious criteria, and thus former member's counterclaims
brought under federal statute governing conspiracy to deprive persons of their
constitutional rights had to be dismissed. 42 U.S.C.A. s 1985(3).
*866 Cohn, Glickstein, Lurie, Ostrin & Lubell, New York City, for
plaintiffs by Jonathan W. Lubell, Audrey J. Isaacs, New York City, of counsel.
Rosner & Rosner, New York City, for defendant, Deutsch by Jonathan L. Rosner,
New York City, of counsel.
GOETTEL, District Judge:
In this libel action brought by two branches of the Church of Scientology,
defendant Morris Deutsch has moved to reargue many of the issues decided by the
Court in its opinion of August 27, 1979. Church of Scientology of
California v. Siegelman, 475 F.Supp. 950 (S.D.N.Y.1979).
The facts of this action are set forth in detail in the August 27th decision.
Defendant Deutsch now asserts that the Court erred in failing to dismiss the
action as against him. In essence he argues that because the statements
allegedly made by him were directed at the Scientology movement in general, and
not at either of the instant plaintiffs, neither of these plaintiffs was
defamed or, consequently, damaged.
*867  In order to make out a cause of action for libel a plaintiff
must establish that the alleged defamatory remark was directed at some specific
individual or group and not merely at an "indeterminate class." Gross v.
Cantor, 270 N.Y. 93, 96, 200 N.E. 592, 593 (1936); Schutzman & Schutzman v.
News Syndicate Co., 60 Misc.2d 827, 304 N.Y.S.2d 167 (Sup.Ct.1969). Where the
defamatory remark is found to be directed at a "small" group as a whole,
however, it has been held that suit may be brought by any member of that
group. Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, 13 F.R.D. 311, 315 (S.D.N.Y.1952). See
Arcand v. Evening Call Publishing Co., 567 F.2d 1163, 1164-65 (1st Cir.
The defendant asserts that the alleged defamatory remarks refer to the
overall, worldwide Scientology movement, of which there are more than five
million members (over three million members in the United States) and numerous
organizational instrumentalities. Accordingly, as the group allegedly defamed
is extremely large, the defendant claims that no individual within that group
can sue absent proof that that individual was a specific target of the
defamatory language. See Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, supra.
Conversely, the plaintiff asserts that the alleged defamatory language relates
to the very limited group of Churches of Scientology in the United States. As
there are only twenty-two such churches within that group, the plaintiffs claim
that all members of the group can sue. See Gross v. Cantor, supra.
 Where the truth lies in this matter is somewhat unclear. The Court
believes, after having closely examined the alleged defamatory language in the
complaint, that the plaintiff will have difficulty proving that the language
relates to the limited group of Churches of Scientology. Nevertheless, we
cannot say at this time, as a matter of law, that they will not be able to do
so, and thus show that the alleged defamation related to these plaintiffs.
See Fetler v. Houghton Mifflin Co., 364 F.2d 650 (2d Cir. 1966). See also
Bindrim v. Mitchell, 92 Cal.App.3d 61, 155 Cal.Rptr. 29 (1979), Cert.
denied, --- U.S. ----, 100 S.Ct. 490, 62 L.Ed.2d 412 (1979).
Accordingly, the defendant's motion to reargue as to this point is denied.
In its August 27th opinion the Court expressed its doubts as to the ability of
the plaintiffs to prove the existence of the "actual malice" on the part of the
defendant that is necessary in order to establish his liability. Church of
Scientology of California v. Siegelman, supra, 475 F.Supp. at 955. The Court
has now expressed its doubts as to the ability of the plaintiffs to demonstrate
that the alleged defamatory remarks made were directed at them rather than at
some far larger group. Nevertheless, as to both issues discovery has not as
yet been completed,[FN1] and the Court believes it would be premature to reach
any final determination on these issues. However, in view of the importance of
preventing potentially frivolous suits where first amendment rights are
concerned, and in view of the continuing appropriateness of summary judgment
(though apparently limited by the Supreme Court's recent decision in Hutchinson
v. Proximire, --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 2675, 2680 n. 9, 61 L.Ed.2d 411
(1979)) as a means through which to resolve many such cases, See Nader v. De
Toledano, --- U.S.App.D.C. ---, --- F.2d ---- (D.C. Cir., July 31, 1979),
the Court makes its determination as to the instant motion, as it did as to the
defendant's previous motion, without prejudice to renewal upon completion of
FN1. Discovery in this action has, it appears, been proceeding at a less
than rapid pace, with frequent disputes arising between the parties.
FN2. In this regard the Court reaffirms its statement in Church of
Scientology of California v. Siegelman, supra, 475 F.Supp. at 956 n. 16,
that "should it be ultimately determined that this suit was brought without
cause, or for the purpose of harassment, the Court will not hesitate to
order the imposition of counsel fees upon the plaintiff. See Nemeroff
v. Abelson, 469 F.Supp. 630 (S.D.N.Y.1979)."
 Finally, the defendant has asserted that the Court also erred in
dismissing his *868 counterclaims that alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. s
1985(3). In this regard, and contrary to the defendant's assertions, the Court
has previously considered and rejected as insufficient for section 1985
purposes, the overbroad class, which has been characterized as consisting of
members, former members, and persons disseminating information about, the
Church of Scientology, but which in essence is made up of persons who are
critics of the Church. Church of Scientology of California v. Siegelman,
supra, 475 F.Supp. at 957 n. 19. Having been presented with no compelling
reason why this result should be modified or reversed, the Court reaffirms its
conclusion that this "vague and amorphous class was not formed on the basis of
any invidious criteria," Id., 475 F.Supp. 957 and, accordingly, that the
defendant's counterclaims brought under section 1985 must be dismissed.
The defendant Deutsch's motion for reargument is, at this time, denied in all