SRF Wants Another Bite of the Apple — July 1993

The dissolution of the preliminary injunction in June 1993 changed everything. It was a good end to a bad beginning. Most decisions in a lawsuit are not appealed, and only rarely does a single case have more than one appeal. SRF would file two appeals to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, and then ask for a rehearing on one decision, seek a new hearing before a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit, and finally petition the Supreme Court to become involved.

SRF filed its first appeal on July 7, 1993, to reverse Garcia’s dissolution of the preliminary injunction. Normally you do not get to jump up and appeal every dis­appointing decision along the course of a lawsuit, and must wait until the end of the case to appeal. But a special rule governs injunctions. Both the granting of an injunction and its denial or dissolution can be immediately appealed. Ananda did not appeal Garcia’s decision to issue the preliminary injunction in 1990, but SRF immediately appealed his decision to dissolve it in 1993. SRF hoped that the Ninth Circuit would rein in Garcia, and that the disasters of the 1992–93 campaign sea­son could yet be reversed, before any real damage was done. Although we did not want to deal with an appeal in the middle of the other ongoing battles, and it ratch­eted up the costs, SRF’s appeal turned out to be heaven sent.

The law permits a party to immediately appeal the granting or denial of an in­junction because injunctions present special issues. They are often given to maintain the status quo during a lawsuit, or to immediately stop some egregious behavior un­til the court can issue a final ruling. They involve a balancing of the plaintiff’s need for the injunction with the harm it would cause the defendant, and recognize that the trial judge can make mistakes. This interim appeal is limited, however, to the issuance, denial, or dissolution of the injunction itself. It does not provide an oppor­tunity to rehash everything that has happened in the case to date. But our case was not your typical case, and SRF asked the appellate court to reach several additional issues as part of the appeal. SRF’s reasoning was that you could not decide the merits of the dissolution of the injunction unless you understood the key rulings on which the dissolution was based. Thus, the Ninth Circuit first needed to decide whether Garcia correctly ruled that “Self-realization” was generic, and “Paramah­ansa Yogananda” was not a service mark, before ruling on the dissolution. Even if the dissolution itself was not reversed, SRF might be able to glean language from an opinion that put the losses in some better light, giving it some hope along the long and costly road ahead. During this time, very little of what was happening in court made its way to the SRF membership. But the truth would come out sooner or later, and SRF was already concerned about how the bad news could be packaged once it needed to be acknowledged.

The appeal provided a lighter moment as well. The Ninth Circuit had recent­ly adopted a mediation and arbitration program for pending appeals, and we all agreed to give it a try. David E. Lombardi, Jr., an attorney who practiced civil liti­gation for twenty-five years in San Francisco, had been appointed to head the ap­peal court’s civil mediation program the year before, and eagerly set up a session for us in San Francisco. Given the contentious nature of the dispute, Lombardi had immediately directed the parties to two separate rooms, so that he could travel back and forth in a form of “shuttle diplomacy.” Because SRF was the plaintiff, he met with them first, while we waited for what seemed an hour. Finally, he walked into our room, not quite as confident as he had earlier appeared, and approaching Kriyananda asked “Are you Mr. Walters?” When Swami confirmed his identity, Lombardi replied “You are not what I had been led to expect.” It seems SRF had been maligning Kriyananda with more than their usual gusto, and Lombardi had walked in expecting to confront some demon. After introductory pleasantries, and a discussion of the larger issues, Lombardi let us know that he was afraid this case would not settle today, if ever. The tone and content of his discussion with SRF led him quickly to conclude the obvious—SRF had no interest in compromise or set­tlement. After a rather relaxed if unproductive session, he thanked us for coming, and just before leaving the room he looked at us with an enigmatic, almost sad, ex­pression and stated simply, “We must have compassion.” We were all amazed that Lombardi had so quickly understood both the difficulties of resolving the lawsuit, and the approach needed to realize that resolution. SRF, however, had its reasons for appealing early and often.

SRF appeared to take every opportunity to play the money card and increase costs. And with no end in sight, Ananda began to feel the pinch. You cannot win motions or appeals if you cannot afford to pay the lawyers, do the research, and cov­er the myriad costs that Justice jealously demands. Without the unflagging support of Ananda’s members, friends, and community, SRF’s “take no prisoners” strategy would have worked. The donors who gave beyond their comfort level deserve their laurels. Their support over the long haul, in good days and bad, through victories and defeats, lent Ananda the time and material to last the course.