Aylsworth Crawford Greene III
December 21, 1952 |
(Specialty: Cult litigation),
Town Councilman in San Anselmo, California
Aylsworth Crawford Greene III (born December 21, 1952) is an American attorney from San Anselmo, California, noted for having successfully conducted litigation against Scientology. Greene is a twice-elected current San Anselmo town councilman. On December 14, 2010, he was voted unanimously by the council to the position of mayor and served in that capacity until rotating out of the position in December 2011.
Litigating against Scientology
Greene has represented a number of clients against Scientology. In Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology of California, he was part of a team that represented former Scientologist Lawrence A. Wollersheim and successfully sued for emotional distress. Wollersheim had been a member of the Church of Scientology for over a decade, leaving in 1979, and sued the church the following year. The court case was heard in 1986. Wollersheim had been a supervisor in Scientology's elite SeaOrg group, and his duties included recruiting celebrities to Scientology. The case resulted in a $2.5 million judgment that grew into an $8.7 million payout due to accumulated interest after over 20 years of litigation. In New York City's Village Voice newspaper in June 2008, Greene commented: "If it had been shown in court that the 350 organizations of the church of Scientology were all controlled by [Scientology leader] David Miscavige, it doesn’t look like a legitimate religion but the authoritative cult that it is. It would have been terrible public relations, and they still would have had to pay the money. And that’s why they paid the money when they did, to avoid the bad PR." 
Some of Scientology's highest-ranking members have disagreed with Greene in print interviews: Kurt Weiland, Director of external affairs for the Church of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs, Scientology's vice president of communications and a member of the organization's Board of Directors, has stated "We don't react kindly to attempts to extort money from the church, especially if it's done through lies and allegations by people like Ford Greene."  Kendrick Moxon, Scientology's lead counsel gathered information on Greene as part of what he termed a "simple, standard check".
Greene also successfully represented client Raul Lopez against the church; Lopez had suffered partial brain damage in an auto accident and turned to Scientology, subsequently donating or 'investing' most of his 1.7 million-dollar accident settlement money to the church.
Unification Church, law studies and California State Bar admission
Greene joined the Unification Church in late 1974 in an attempt to convince his sister Catherine to renounce her membership in the organization. Unable to do so, he walked out in July 1975. For a number of months after his departure he was subject to disrupted sleep, fearing judgement as a "Judas". From 1976 to 1978, he deprogrammed about 130 members of the Unification Church (or "Moonies"), including the Prince of Tahiti. He failed to deprogram his own sister, who is still a member of the church. The deprogrammer character in the film Ticket to Heaven was based on his work. Greene began studying law at the New College of California Law School in 1978. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1983.
Litigating against cults
In Molko v. Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, Greene represented two former members of the Unification Church, David Molko and Tracy Leal, before the California Supreme Court. (Paul Morantz, an amicus curiae on behalf of the Cult Awareness Network, also briefed and argued the case.) In 1988, the state high court held that religious organizations may be sued for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress when they use deception to cause candidates for recruitment to unwittingly expose themselves to brainwashing techniques. The members of the Unification Church who recruited Molko had lied by denying any religious connection to their recruitment pitch, and then when he trusted them, brainwashing him. In a legal opinion written by Justice Stanley Mosk regarding tactics religious groups use to attract followers, the court found that any burden on the free exercise of religion was outweighed by the state's interest in protecting against "fraudulent induction of unconsenting individuals into an atmosphere of coercive persuasion" because many people exposed to brainwashing techniques without their knowledge or consent would develop serious and sometimes irreversible physical and psychiatric disorders, up to and including schizophrenia, self-mutilation, and suicide. The defendants appealed to the United States Supreme Court which refused to review the decision of the California Supreme Court, and the case was settled out of court.
Free speech activism
From 2003 to 2005, Greene was involved in a controversy about a changeable 'Freedom' sign with political messages on the side of his San Anselmo law office, facing eastbound traffic on busy Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Greene was vehement regarding his opposition to the policies of President George W. Bush, one example being Greene's recommendation for his readers to "defy evil Bushism".
After San Anselmo police removed his sign in 2003, Greene sued the city. After a new sign ordinance was passed limiting the size of signs to 6 square feet (0.56 m2), Greene put up 16 small signs together to form a large one. A court declined to stop this, deciding that the town could only limit the size, not the number of signs. Greene settled the dispute in October 2005 by agreeing to use only half the space for messages, and was reimbursed by the town for nearly a thousand dollars in expenses.
"This settlement is my Christmas gift to the town of San Anselmo," Greene was quoted as saying after the settlement. "I'm happy to disprove the adage you can't fight City Hall, but it sure helps to be an attorney. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens lack such advantage upon which town authorities seem to count in the way they respond to – and often ignore – citizens' concerns and complaints."
Publicly elected service
In November 2005, Greene ran for a seat on the San Anselmo Town Council against Ian Roth, but came 300 votes short of being elected. Roth resigned in September 2006. Greene interviewed to be appointed to the Council seat he had nearly won, but former Ross Hospital CEO Judy House was chosen by the Council in a 4–0 vote. Greene said "It was a done deal. I'm not going anywhere. There's an election in a year."
Greene was elected to the San Anselmo Town Council in November 2007. "There was a compost pile that needed to be turned," Greene said when the election results became known. "The government in this town was so embedded, so self-absorbed, that a substantial number of the population didn't like it. That was the issue." Greene was elected by the council to the position of mayor in December, 2010.
He was re-elected to the council on November 8, 2011. Greene stated he would "continue on the same path, emphasizing open and responsive government and looking at planning and regulatory codes to make them more accessible and friendly to residents of San Anselmo." 
Litigation regarding 'corporate personhood'
On January 7, 2013, in a case relating to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Greene represented Jonathan Frieman, a Marin County political activist who was ticketed for driving in the carpool lane on Highway 101. The case was widely noted in the U.S. and international news media.
Frieman stated to reporters that he had been driving for years in the carpool lanes, waiting to be pulled over, while carrying papers of incorporation relating to a family charity. Greene, after exhibiting photos of the signage prohibiting the use of the lane to "two or more persons", asked the presiding jurist, Frank Drago, "What's a person? Is a person a natural person? Is it a corporation? Or, is a person both?" He also noted that the existing law, California vehicle code section 470, "is constitutionally vague". Drago stated that the argument was "a novel one", but in ruling against it, pointed to what he said was the intent of the law: to relieve traffic congestion. Greene and Frieman will appeal to a higher court within 30 days of the ruling.
- Finalist, Trial Lawyer of the Year award 2003 (by the organization Trial Lawyers for Public Justice) for his success in the Wollersheim case, lost to Tony Serra.
- Morgan, Lucy (1998-01-28). "Hardball: When Scientology goes to court, it likes to play rough – very rough.". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Ortega, Tony (2008-06-27). "Scientology's Crushing Defeat". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Leiby, Richard (2002-05-10). "Ex-Scientologist Collects $8.7 Million In 22-Year-Old Case". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Pressman, Steven (December 1994). "Litigation Noir: the perils of suing Scientology". California Lawyer. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Russell, Ron (December 21, 2001). "Brained". New Times.
- San Francisco Weekly October 5, 2005
- Gorenfeld, John- Bad Moon Rising: how the Reverend Moon Created the Washington Times, Seduced the Religious Right, and Built an American Kingdom- Pg. 32,33- 2008– PoliPointPress, LLC- Sausalito, CA- ISBN 978-0-9794822-3-6
- Cult Busters, Deutschlandfunk, June 19, 2007
- Whitaker, Fred (January 9, 2005), "Ford Greene: Attorney at odds", Marin Independent Journal
- Who Is Rev. Moon? 'Returning Lord,' 'Messiah,' Publisher of the Washington Times, AlterNet, March 15, 2008, by John Gorenfeld
- Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn.
- Jenkins, Pamela (1996). Witnessing for Sociology: Sociologists in Court. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 120–128.
- Russell, Ron (2005-10-05). "Sign of the Cult-Buster". SF Weekly. Village Voice Media. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Russell, Ron (2005-10-05). "Sign of the Cult-Buster". SF Weekly. Village Voice Media. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Wolfcale, Joe (December 20, 2005). "Town, lawyer settle sign dispute". Marin Independent Journal.
- Halstead, Richard (August 4, 2007). "Flood fee critic may run for Town Council". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Whitaker, Tad (October 19, 2006). "Sparks fly as town picks new council member". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Rogers, Rob (November 7, 2007). "Greene, Thornton win San Anselmo race". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Halstead, Richard (November 8, 2011). "Lopin, Greene win seats on San Anselmo Town Council". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
- Sankin, Aaron (January 7, 2013). "You'll Never Believe This Man's Excuse For Using The Carpool Lane". Huffington Post.
- Berton, Justin (January 8, 2013). "Corporation not person in carpool lanes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 8 January 2013.