Amusing facts from In re Henson, 289 B.R. 741 (Bankr. N.D. Cal. 2003):
Before the Court are two matters initiated by Religious Technology Center (“Creditor”), a creditor of H. Keith Henson (“Debtor”), who is the debtor in this Chapter 13 case:
It is undisputed that Debtor left California to live in Canada at some point during 2001, shortly prior to being sentenced on criminal charges in Riverside County. Debtor stated in a pre-trial declaration that he had filed a petition for Canadian refugee status and could not leave that country while it was pending, and he filed a motion for leave to appear at trial by “contemporaneous video transmission” because he had moved to Canada and would “likely still be there” at time of trial. Debtor’s motion was denied for lack of the “good cause” and “compelling circumstances” that are required by Rule 43(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (incorporated by FRBP 9017).
Debtor has been an outspoken critic of the Church of Scientology since at least 1995. He and his wife clearly believe that the Church is harmful and vindictive in general, and has behaved that way with respect to them in particular. Debtor’s public criticism of the Church has taken the form of standard political action such as picketing, as well as publishing Debtor’s critical views of the Church, its leaders, and at least one of its lawyers on the Internet. Debtor and some of his colleagues also play a form of game in which they rate among themselves the negative reactions they evoke from Church officials and lawyers.
Creditor and its lawyers strike at Debtor with a force and with resources that far exceed those available to Debtor ( e.g., the four different law firms who represent and appear for Creditor in this Chapter 13 *744 bankruptcy), appearing to expend funds that significantly exceed those expended on any Chapter 13 case of which this Court is aware, and far beyond the financial issues at stake. Moreover, the character of the litigation has been highly contentious and personal, unlike most Chapter 13 practice.
Debtor testified in a 1996 videotaped deposition, before commencement of this bankruptcy case, that he had never been a member of the Church, but had participated since at least 1995 in a group known as “alt.religion.scientology”, or “a.r.s.”, which was critical of the Church. The group awarded its members different levels of “status” depending on what kind of response was evoked by their acts toward the Church— e.g., greater status was achieved by being sued for copyright infringement than by being sent “cease and desist” letters. Debtor said in the 1996 deposition that he had made many FN4 postings on the Internet that were “critical or taunting” toward the Church, and considered eliciting responses to be “a major increment in status” within a.r.s., as well as “a great game”, “extremely amusing”, “screamingly funny”, “a lot of fun”, among his “hobbies”, and an activity that “comes off the recreation budget”.
FN4. Debtor testified that he did not know how many such postings he had made on the Internet. When asked a second time by counsel for Creditor to make an estimate, Debtor replied in a facetious tone that the number was 1,228.