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05/05/87 United States of America, v. Mary Sue Hubbard

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT


May 5, 1987

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE

v.

MARY SUE HUBBARD, ET AL., CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA, APPELLANT/INTERVENOR 1987.CDC.190

Before ROBINSON and STARR, Circuit Judges, and WRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Rules of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals may limit citation of unpublished opinions. Please refer to the Rules of the United States Court of Appeals for this Circuit.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

MEMORANDUM

The Church of Scientology of California sought to intervene in this closed criminal case to combat a nunc pro tunc docketing of a sentencing memorandum submitted herein by the Government but never made part of the District Court record while the case was ongoing. This status of the memorandum purportedly affects the Church's ability to enjoin its dissemination by the Government. *fn1 The District Court denied leave to intervene. The sole issue on appeal is whether, for purposes of protesting a retroactive entry on the docket, the Church properly could and should have been permitted to intervene in a criminal case that has run its full course.

Another case, Founding Church of Scientology v Webster, *fn2 is one of two civil actions *fn3 filed by the Church seeking, inter alia, injunctive relief respecting treatment of the sentencing memorandum by the Government. *fn4 In that case, the Church asserted that certain of its constitutional rights were violated by illegal investigative tactics of the Government, improper seizure of confidential documents, and subsequent distribution of those documents and related information to the public. Pursuant to Federal Civil Rule 37(b)(2),5 the District Court dismissed the action because of the Church's repeated failure to produce a witness for deposition.

A panel of this court has now upheld the dismissal as an appropriate sanction.6 Unless a district court directs otherwise, Rule 37(b)(2) operates as an adjudication upon the merits and precludes subsequent prosecution of claims forming the gravaman of the earlier suit.7 The preclusive effect of the holding in founding Church is made even clearer by an express stipulation in the District Court's order that the dismissal was with prejudice.8 The Church is thus barred from further asserting the unlawfulness of the Government's dissemination of the sentencing memorandum.

It follows that the panel's decision in Founding Church renders moot the question whether the Church should have been allowed to intervene in the case before us. The Church's interposition is premised wholly on the effect that public filing of the sentencing memorandum assertedly will have on civil litigation by the Church.9 Save for its claim of enhanced ability to challenge dissemination in court actions, the Church has no cognizable interest in blocking augmentation of the District Court's docket by an entry concerning the memorandum. Since Founding Church now precludes such actions, no decision by this panel on docketing of the memorandum could benefit the Church.

Inability of a court to provide meaningful relief to a litigant is a classic attribute of a moot proceeding.10 That such is the immutable situation here is beyond peradventure. We accordingly vacate the District Court's order denying intervention11 and remand the case to that court for dismissal on the ground of mootness.

JUDGMENT

This cause came on to be heard on the record on appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and was briefed and argued by counsel.

Upon consideration thereof, it is

ORDERED by the Court, for the reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, that the order of the District Court denying appellant leave to intervene by and hereby is vacated, and that this case be and hereby is remanded to the District Court with instruction to dismiss for mootness.

PER CURIAM DECISION


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