Constitutional Law

11th Circuit Rescues Fla. Lawyer Caught in Conflicting Rulings, Says He Must Quit Scientology Case

A Florida plaintiffs lawyer allegedly agreed not to sue the Church of Scientology again as part of a settlement in a 2004 wrongful death suit.

But Ken Dandar sued the church again in 2009, leading to an uncomfortable situation: A state court judge told Dandar he had to withdraw as counsel in the federal wrongful death case against the church and threatened to hit him with hefty monetary penalties if he didn’t. Meanwhile, the federal judge in the case said he couldn’t withdraw, as detailed in an earlier post.

Now a federal appeals court has gotten Dandar out of the jam, holding that U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday lacked the power to countermand the order by Pinellas Circuit Judge Robert Beach that Dandar must step down, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Under the federal Anti-Injunction Act, a federal court can stop a case in state court only under rare circumstances, and this wasn’t one of them, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained in its opinion (PDF) last week.

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