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For most, a $4,000 discovery sanction is a stiff penalty.
As a daily sanction, however, it could get out of hand quickly. Tallied over a year, that's about $1.46 million for non-compliance with a court order.
For the Watchtower and Jehovah's Witnesses, a $4,000-a-day sanction might feel like religious persecution. But to a California appeals court, it was just about right for the defendant in a child molestation case.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the discovery sanction in Padron v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. The appellate court said the Watchtower had refused to comply with valid discovery orders for records.
Watchtower, published for Jehovah's Witnesses, said it would not produce the documents because it would violate its members First Amendment rights. The Fourth District said the Watchtower had abused discovery.
The appeals panel noted the defendant had contradicted itself in a similar case. In Lopez v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the defendant agreed the court could impose monetary sanctions against it for not complying with discovery.
The discovery sanction came after the plaintiff tried to get records from the defendant in a molestation action. Osbaldo Pardon alleged he had been molested by Gonzalo Campos, a Watchtower agent and leader of the Pacifica Congregation.
According to court records, Campos had molested boys between 1980 and 1995. The church was aware of the molestation, but did not report Campos to police or take action to prevent further abuse.
"In 1994 or 1995, Campos molested Pardon on multiple occasions when Pardon was seven or eight years old," the Fourth District said.
The appeals court said the trial judge showed "great patience and flexibility with a recalcitrant litigant" in ordering the monetary sanctions. The court noted evidence that the defendant owned real property valued at $1.3 billion.
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