Who is Graham Berry?
— L.A. Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III
Graham Berry is a disgraced lawyer formally designated a “vexatious litigant” by the California Judicial Council for filing numerous meritless lawsuits to harass and harm the Church of Scientology, its principals and members. His sordid history, available in the public record, includes paying witnesses for manufactured evidence, falsifying evidence, using wrongful litigation tactics, and defying court orders.
As a result of Berry’s abusive and obsessive anti-Scientology assault, the State Bar of California recommended and the California Supreme Court issued an order suspending him from practicing law for 18 months. He was required to serve a 9-month suspension. Berry was given such a light sentence by seeking sympathy for claimed mental illness and drinking problems, all while skirting evidence concerning criminal activity that has swirled around him for decades.
A history of abusive and criminal conduct as a lawyer
In the mid to late 1990s, Berry tried to profit by false claims against the Church of Scientology through a series of failed, frivolous lawsuits. He repeatedly flouted the law in his attempts to harass the Church, its leadership and Scientologists, resulting in multiple sanctions and disciplinary proceedings.
Berry’s tactics include paying an anti-Scientologist $17,000 for a false declaration about the Church, which was fed to the press to generate sensational reports. When the testimony was proven false and Berry’s firm at the time discovered his paid-for misrepresentations, the law firm informed the media the allegations would no longer be supported by the firm.
In another instance of alleged perjury, a woman claimed Berry had converted her eight-page declaration into a 19-page document by adding 11 pages of “sworn testimony” she did not write, without her knowledge or consent. In a letter to the California State Bar, the woman wrote that Berry’s additions “contained statements which were untrue and/or which covered matters of which I have no personal knowledge.” In a supporting declaration, she swore, “Not only did I not make those statements, I never heard of them before.”
A further witness swore that Berry invented false content in his written testimony, and specifically content that was “something I had earlier informed Berry was a complete fabrication.”
Yet another declarant, whom Berry had paid $33,000, later recanted and admitted in court proceedings that she fabricated testimony for Berry for the money. She explained that for Berry to get a client off the hook for false and defamatory accusations of criminal activity on the part of the Church, Berry needed the declarant to manufacture evidence that would make it appear the Church had a “pattern and practice” of such activity.
Berry was forced out of two law firms that wanted no part in his dishonest tactics and harassment of the Church. He hung out his own shingle to resume his attacks on the Church with a series of ill-fated, frivolous lawsuits.
Berry files meritless lawsuits to harass
In one bizarre conspiracy lawsuit against the Church and its leader, Berry named the President of the United States, the National Security Advisor, the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce, and the Deputy Commissioner of the IRS as co-defendants, along with some 50 others. Berry reinvented and refiled his hopelessly flawed case over and over again, each time including incoherent dissertations on his latest theories of a conspiracy between the Church and the government to support religious freedom, in hopes of generating publicity through his ridiculous claims.
A U.S. District Court judge admonished Berry for filing what she called “a rambling tale of irrelevancy” and ruled that Berry acted in bad faith. The court dismissed the suit and then punished Berry and his client with sanctions of more than $28,000.
But harassment was the whole point for Berry. As he bluntly told one client: “My agenda basically is to bite Scientology in the butt and to cause it as much grief as possible.” The unspoken part is his motive to coerce the Church to pay him to go away.
At one point, Berry sent a blatantly extortionate letter to Church counsel, making preposterous threats to disclose “evidence” of fictitious felonies and demanding nearly $40 million, urging “a very narrow window in which to solve a lot of problems with money.” He wrote of a “global settlement” with a list of individuals and entities, many of whom he did not even represent.
Through his actions, Berry repeatedly made clear that his purpose had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with his pathological state of mind.
When posting on an Internet chat room in 1997-98, Berry pronounced his hate-filled obsession with the Church, declaring he was “getting even, one by one” as “revenge is sweet” and vowing that he was going for “extinction.” Berry made it personal, alluding to potential harm that would come to the family of one Church counsel and the young daughter of another. He posted scatological hate speech against Church “leadership” calling for them to be “publicly buggered [sodomized] before breakfast on a daily basis.”
Courts repeatedly censure Graham Berry
Court after court has censured Berry for his documented pattern and practice of litigation abuse. Statements by multiple courts give some insight into his antics.
“Mr. Berry, do not file with this Court documents that have no basis in law,” U.S. District Court Judge Donald E. Abram admonished Berry, among the many examples.
In one scathing rebuke, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte told him: “Mr. Berry, would you just keep your mouth shut for a minute?… I’ve tried to bend over backwards to be fair to both sides in this case, and I’m going to continue to try to be so. But some of your comments and the way you say them make it very hard not to get angry.”
In one of many court orders penalizing Berry with monetary sanctions, former California Supreme Court Justice David N. Eagleson told him: “I very seldom give sanctions—very seldom—but this is outrageous, counsel. Outrageous.”
In a single two-and-a-half-year period, Berry and his clients were penalized with sanctions, attorney fees and costs 12 times in nine different cases, for a total of more than $111,000.
Berry’s violative conduct included that he “acted in bad faith by pursuing meritless claims,” that he acted with “substantial and clear conflicts of interest,” and that he repeatedly named a defendant in a case without articulating a single cogent claim against him.
Berry sought unsuccessfully to get out from under his monetary sanctions by declaring bankruptcy. But the bankruptcy court refused to allow Berry to evade payment as to the largest sanction award on behalf of Church counsel, which had been issued against him for “bad faith” litigation.
Graham Berry is ruled a vexatious litigant
On August 20, 1999, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III had enough of Berry’s abusive litigation and declared him a vexatious litigant—defined as an attorney who files suits without legal merit, solely to harass. The ruling disqualifies Berry from filing a suit on behalf of himself without court authorization.
The ruling was the result of a petition filed in L.A. Superior Court on behalf of defendants in five separate cases brought by Berry. In the hearing on the matter, Judge Williams stated:
“Quite frankly this court has seen the dumping of huge amounts of borderline irrelevant material with undue glee by Mr. Berry because it is in his judgment and my observation a license to bash and trash. I have seen it. I have watched it and it’s time for somebody to call it what it is, and that is what it is.”
In granting the petition to declare Berry a vexatious litigant, the judge addressed him directly:
“If there is such a thing on God’s green earth as a vexatious litigant you sir, sadly, are it.”
An impenitent Berry declared after the hearing: “I intend to continue litigating against them [Church] and to continue—to continue vexing them.”
The State Bar suspends Graham Berry from practicing law
Berry not only continued vexing the Church, but continued committing offenses and demonstrating professional and personal misconduct.
In late 2001, the California State Bar recommended that Berry be suspended from practice for 18 months, with 9 months served, taking effect on approval and order of the California Supreme Court in May 2002.
Berry signed a nolo contendere [no contest] plea stipulating to facts and conclusions. He admitted to a pattern of misconduct including the State Bar Court’s itemized listing of “multiple acts of wrongdoing,” mishandling client funds, failing to pay court-ordered sanctions, failing to disclose conflict of interest, and disobeying court orders.
During the disciplinary proceedings, the ever-calculating Berry pulled a pity ploy for his misconduct, including “extreme emotional difficulties” and a drinking problem, for which he said he was in treatment, to draw leniency from the bar. Berry stipulated that his mental situation was so bad, he had to shut down his law practice in 1999.
The Bar ordered Berry to undergo psychiatric treatment for 18 months, attend ethics school for lawyers who have been disciplined, and pass a national Professional Responsibility Examination at his own expense. He was further ordered to report on his payment of the sanctions he had incurred over the previous years for filing meritless claims to courts and substantial conflicts of interest.
Berry exploits criminal and unbalanced clients to harass
In furtherance of his campaign of harassment of the Church and Scientologists, Berry has garnered and used discredited and criminal “clients” and “witnesses,” and exploited those whose misconduct and dishonesty is similarly unrestrained. Among the examples:
Garry Scarff: The late Garry Scarff was an admitted pathological liar. His biggest lies—widely publicized by media—included that his father, girlfriend and infant son died in the November 1978 massacre at Jonestown, Guyana, from which he claimed he’d escaped. Scarff later retracted in full. He was never at Jonestown, had no son, and his father was very much alive. Berry exploited Scarff’s willingness to lie, soliciting false and preposterous testimony that Scarff was a member and “operative” of the Church of Scientology and had been ordered to conduct a murder and commit suicide. Scarff later recanted his perjury, explaining that he was never a member of the Church, never worked for or followed any instruction from any Church of Scientology in any way, and said, “I completely fabricated the story with the knowing participation of Mr. Berry.”
Steven Fishman: Fishman is a multiple-convicted criminal and serial scammer. First arrested in 1988 and convicted for a $1 million scam involving class-action fraud, Fishman was again arrested late that year and convicted of obstruction of justice after faking death threats in an attempt to frame the Church of Scientology. Berry began defending a case against Fishman and his psychiatrist in the early 1990s when the Church took action to defend itself against Fishman’s scams and lies. Beginning in the late 1990s, Fishman was again involved in an elaborate criminal scheme and was indicted and found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In 2009, Fishman was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $3.6 million in restitution.
Arnaldo Lerma: The late Arnaldo Lerma was an extremist militiaman allied with and supported by notorious racist, anti-Semite and pro-Nazi Willis Carto. Lerma was a leader of an anti-Scientology cyber-harassment campaign represented by Berry. In 2018, Lerma infamously shot his wife in the face, disfiguring her for life, then fatally turned the gun on himself. Berry eulogized Lerma as “my good friend for 25 years.”
Donald Myers: Donald Myers has been convicted and placed under criminal restraining orders four times since 2010, represented by Berry. His criminal acts include vandalizing Church property, harassing and frightening children at their school, sexual battery of a Church staff member, and assault of a Scientologist.
Brandon Reisdorf: After warning he was “packing heat (gun on waist),” in 2016 Reisdorf shattered the glass front window of the Church of Scientology Los Angeles with a hammer and threatened the life of the religion’s leader. He was convicted of felony vandalism of religious property and placed under a criminal restraining order. His psychiatrist gave formal notice to the Church’s leader saying Reisdorf was a potential danger to him and had threatened him. That was fine with Berry, who represented Reisdorf in 2019 when he was arrested for violating his probation. Reisdorf was again incarcerated following another criminal vandalism that year.
Berry’s litigation history makes him anathema to principled clients. He draws his main support from virulent anti-Scientologists, including individuals expelled from the Church for criminal and/or antisocial conduct and who attack their former religion for revenge and money.
For years Berry chiefly lived off one such anti-Scientologist in L.A., including receiving housing and a car. More recently he has lived off one of his longest-term sponsors, Karen de la Carriere, who was expelled from the Church after it discovered her double life as a “mistress” for hire—a higher-level call girl who urged adultery—and who has taken out her vengeance on Scientologists ever since.
Anti-Scientologists support and use Berry because he’s one of them, and he has no scruples about abusing the law and injecting hate and bigotry into the system. They know what he is doing is dishonest and malicious. One anti-Scientologist who seeks to drum up cases for Berry said it years ago:
“Berry attempted to make his fortune by harassing the Church through abusive litigation and demanding to be paid to go away.”
That truth, repeatedly affirmed by the courts and the bar, has never changed.