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Religious Technology Center v. Lerma
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
908 F. Supp. 1362 (1995)
In 1991 the Church of Scientology sued Steven Fishman, a former church member, in a federal district court in California. Fishman filed an affidavit with the court that attached 69 pages of Scientology’s information (the Fishman affidavit). In the California case, Religious Technology Center (RTC) (plaintiff) moved to seal the Fishman affidavit. The California court declined to seal the documents, and the documents were made part of the public court record until August 15, 1995. Arnaldo Lerma (defendant), another former church member, acquired a copy of the Fishman affidavit and, on August 1, 1995, posted the information on the internet. RTC obtained a temporary restraining order against Lerma to prevent any additional publication of the Fishman affidavit. On August 6, Lerma sent the Fishman affidavit to the Washington Post (the Post). RTC discovered the Post had been notified and told the Post that the information was stolen. The Post returned the actual copy of the information it received from Lerma. However, the Post knew that the Fishman affidavit was publicly available in the California case, and on August 14, the Post sent a reporter to the courthouse to receive a copy. Although RTC checked the file out all day at the California courthouse to prevent anyone from reading it, the California clerk’s office made a copy of the Fishman affidavit for the reporter, and the reporter mailed the information to the Post. The next day, on August 15, RTC again moved to seal the documents, and the documents were sealed. On August 19, the Post published an article about Scientology’s litigation tactics against critics and used three brief quotes from documents in the Fishman affidavit. RTC sued Lerma and the Post for unauthorized use and disclosure of its trade secrets.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Brinkema, J.)
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