A federal judge dismissed the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall lawsuit last week due to filing and jurisdictional issues.
On January 6, 2012 the Chief Magistrate Judge for The United States District Court for Northern California, Maria-Elena James, dismissed a lawsuit filed in August 2010 by Jonathan Cobb Sr. and Walter Arlen St. Clair.
Readers of Ex-JW.com not familiar with this case should take time to read earlier articles outlining the events leading to the filing of this lawsuit along with the backgrounds of the plaintiffs and the defendants. You can find links to those articles by typing “Menlo Park” in the search box in the far right sidebar.
The judge’s decision to dismiss was not related to the issues in dispute or any of the civil or criminal acts alleged in the case. She dismissed the lawsuit due to the lack of federal jurisdiction over the issues involved. In her written opinion, she pointed out that her court did not have the authority to rule on most of the charges outlined in the plaintiffs lawsuit.
Judge James did not make any comments on the validity of the plaintiffs’ charges, nor was her ruling a vindication for the actions of any of the parties involved (including alleged criminal acts by the defendants). Instead, she ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims fell outside of the federal court’s jurisdiction, although some criminal and civil (torts) complaints might be successfully pursued in state courts. She also pointed out that because the plaintiffs had not asked for specific monetary damages (the court has a minimum threshold of $75,000 in these kinds of cases), their case did not meet those federal court guidelines.
You can read the judge’s written decision in full by clicking on this link or the one at the end of this article.
What does this ruling mean for the plaintiffs, the two dismissed former elders of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall? Will they find another way to bring their grievances to court to have their names and reputations exonerated? Will the Watchtower Society make a move to expel them from the “Christian Congregation,” along with one or more of the other former elders connected to this case?
As for the defendants, can they go back to their lives as elders and ministerial servants in what has become a spiritually divided congregation? Can they finally complete the merger of the Redwood City South and Menlo Park congregations not only in fact, but also in the spirit of Christian brotherhood? Or is this just a lull in the battle while everyone chooses sides and prepares for another fight?
The future for those involved in the lawsuit is unclear at this point. This is not the end of this sordid tale. It seems that the congregation will suffer more turmoil in the months ahead as current and former elders continue to fight over control of the little Kingdom Hall in Menlo Park, California.
Editor’s Note: Based on feedback I’ve received from my contacts close to the current situation within the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall, this story could be like an out of control forest fire: flames may have been put out in one area (the federal court), but have already heated up and are about to reignite in another (the state courts). Unfortunately, it seems more turmoil is yet to come before the ultimate damage to this congregation can be fully assessed. Within the next few days I will be publishing revealing new information about what really happened in Menlo Park taken directly from court documents.