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The Church of Scientology is no stranger to the legal system and to allegations that it demeans and abuses its members.Just this week, one of Tom Cruise’s ex-girlfriends claimed in Vanity Fair the church forced her to scrub toilets after she illicitly revealed her love for the star.
The church has also launched intellectual property suits to keep its religious documents a secret, and it has waged legal battles throughout the world in the name of religious freedom.
Perhaps most famously, the Church fought an epic battle with the IRS in an effort to secure tax-exempt status.
That finally resulted in a secret 1993 deal with the federal government, the Wall Street Journal reported in 1997, after obtaining a copy of the agreement.
Under the deal, the church won tax exempt status in exchange for paying $12.5 million and dropping thousands of lawsuits against the federal government.
Just who are the lawyers who go to bat for the Church in all these lawsuits? Well, they’re pretty tough to track down, but it seems the church has relied on a few trusted lawyers to fight its legal battles.
Two of them are a married couple, and one works for an independent firm but reportedly represents the Church exclusively.
Lawyers who represent or represented the church did not respond to requests for comment, with the exception of one attorney: Eric Lieberman of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, P.C.
The church itself did not respond to a request for comment, either.
Monique Yingling, a partner at Washington firm Zuckert Scoutt & Rasenberger, defended the Church of Scientology back in 1997.
'The Internal Revenue Service made its decision to issue exemption rulings to the Church of Scientology in 1993 on the merits following the most in-depth examination in the history of the I.R.S.,' she wrote.
The tax lawyer still represented the church several years later, Jeffrey Zuckerman, a Washington lawyer who briefly dealt with the Church in a tax dispute, told Business Insider.
In 2004, Zuckerman sued the federal government on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish couple seeking a tax write-off for religious education that was apparently only available to Scientologists under the 1993 deal, Zuckerman said.
In that case, Zuckerman tried to subpoena church tax records, but the church fought his requests, he said.
'My impression at the time was that she was really a key -- if not the key -- outside lawyer for the Church of Scientology,' Zuckerman told Business Insider.
She married another lawyer who's also apparently a key player.
Yingling's husband, Gerald Feffer, has also represented the Church's interests.
In 1997, he defended the Scientologists' practice of using private investigators in its dealings with the IRS, according to an article in the New York Times.
''The I.R.S. uses investigators, too,'' said Feffer, who was at the time an attorney with Williams & Connolly, one of Washington's most influential law firms.
''They're called C.I.D. agents'' -- for Criminal Investigation Division -- ''and the C.I.D. agents put this church under intense scrutiny for years with a mission to destroy the church,' he added.
Feffer had previously gained notoriety for representing tax-dodger Leona Helmsley.
He officially retired from Williams & Connolly, but a receptionist there said he still comes into the office and has a dedicated assistant.
Wallace Pope, a Clearwater, Fla.-based attorney, has represented the church in a number of cases, according to various news reports and his own firm bio.
His firm, Johnson Pope Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, has a ton of political power in Clearwater, according to Florida lawyer Ken Dandar.
Dandar went head-to-head with the church in a wrongful death case brought by the estate of deceased Scientologist Lisa McPherson.
'It's a smart thing to do if you're in a small town,' Dandar told Business Insider, referring to hiring a law firm with so much political influence.
Like many of the Church of Scientology's lawyers, Helena Kobrin doesn't seem to operate a website, though there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to her firm, Moxin & Kobrin.
Back in 1996, the American Lawyer interviewed Kobrin, describing her as a solo practitioner whose sole client was the Church of Scientology International.
At the time, Kobrin acknowledged to ALM that she knew of no other church that protected its scriptures as trade secrets, as the Church of Scientology has.
Kendrick Moxon, Helena Kobrin's law partner, is known as one of the Church's top lawyers and is also open about being a Scientologist himself, according to Dandar, who dealt with him in litigation involving the church.
The Church brought Moxon in from Los Angeles to defend the Scientologists in a Florida case involving the death of church member Lisa McPherson that settled in 2004, Florida lawyer Ken Dandar said.
The Church's lawyers on that case used underhanded tactics to try to dig up dirt on Dandar personally, hiring private investigators to interview every client he'd had for over a decade, Dandar says.
Los Angeles attorney Joseph Yanny represented the Church of Scientology from 1983 to 1987. He earned nearly $2 million in fees from the church, mostly in a case against a former top executive, the LA Times reported back in 1990.
But Yanny left the Church because of tactics it used against opponents, spurring the Scientologists to sue him for 'inflated bills' among other alleged misdeeds, the Times reported.
Then Williams & Connolly hired a private investigator to follow him, the LA Times reported.
'I am probably Public Enemy No. 1 as far as they are concerned,' Yanny told the Times back in 1990.
Like the individual lawyers profiled, Williams & Connolly did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its dealings with the church.
This lawyer for the Scientologists works for a firm that represented a lot of controversial clients.
In July, a federal appeals court in California ruled for the Church of Scientology in a high-profile case brought by a couple accusing the Church of essentially enslaving them.
The lawyer behind that victory? Eric Lieberman of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, P.C., a firm that has a history of defending noted left-wing clients like accused spy Alger Hiss.
'I have represented various religious and political organisations over the years -- many actually,' Lieberman told Business Insider. 'I'm not going to say whether the church is a controversial client or not, but this firm is known for taking on controversial clients.'
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