The clock is ticking for Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters to turn over documents detailing sexual abuse of children by kingdom elders. For each day they do not, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organizational body, will be forced to pay $4000.
On November 9th, a state appellate ruled that the daily sanctions that a trial court imposed on the church stands.
In 2012, former parishioners José Lopez and Osbaldo Padron sued the Watchtower over abuse they had suffered while members of the Linda Vista congregation at the hands of former elder Gonzalo Campos.
Just months prior to their lawsuit, the kingdom had settled with five other victims whom Campos abused from 1982 to 1999 while serving at the Linda Vista and La Jolla congregations.
Despite the earlier settlement, the Watchtower decided to litigate Padron’s and Lopez’s lawsuits. In 2013, a judge awarded Lopez $13.5 million after the church was accused of withholding documents that potentially showed that Watchtower headquarters was aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Watchtower attorneys successfully appealed that decision, claiming that the judge had failed to impose daily sanctions first.
Then, in 2015, a trial judge in the Osbaldo case also determined the church was withholding documents. However, instead of issuing terminating sanctions, the judge followed the appellate court's advice and imposed daily sanctions of $4000.
Last year, attorneys for the Watchtower filed an appeal, stating that the court did not have authority to do the exact thing they had wanted to be done in the Lopez case.
As reported by the Reader, on October 11 the appellate court judges expressed their frustration with Watchtower attorneys for trying to play both sides.
That frustration showed in the appellate court's formal ruling as well.
"...[W]e are troubled that Watchtower has taken two inconsistent positions before us," reads the November 9 ruling.
"Here, after the superior court imposed a daily monetary sanction for noncompliance, Watchtower now argues such a sanction is not authorized. We cannot rectify these diametrically opposed positions…. Watchtower has obstinately refused to comply with the order, consistently attempting to reargue the very discovery issues the court already decided."
Padron's attorney, Irwin Zalkin, says it is his firm's position that sanctions should have begun in June when judge Richard Strauss first imposed them.
As for his opinion on the court's ruling, "We are now one step closer to exposing the depth and breadth of the scourge of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witness Organization that has been covered up for decades. It's time for them to come clean and seriously address the problem and make good on their public relations refrain that they 'abhor child abuse.'"