Aylsworth Crawford Greene III
December 21, 1952|
United States Template:Flagicon
(Specialty: Cult litigation),
Mayor of 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 alleged cults. Greene is currently the mayor of San Anselmo and an elected San Anselmo town councilman. On December 14, 2010 he was voted unanimously by the council to the position of mayor. 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 and has been a practicing attorney in the state for over 25 years.
Unification Church membership
He 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, Greene 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 in the organization. The "deprogrammer" character in the film Ticket to Heaven was based on his work.
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. 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.
In State of Colorado v. Whelan and Brandyberry in 1980, Greene successfully used a "choice of evils" defense in a criminal prosecution of a "deprogrammer" against charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
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 judgement that grew into a $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 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.
Free speech activism
For much of the past decade, Greene has been 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. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Greene was outspoken regarding Bush's policies, 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, 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 Oct. 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."
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.
But after less than a year in office, Roth resigned in September, 2006. Greene, interviewed to be appointed to the Council seat he had nearly won. However, former Ross Hospital CEO Judy House was 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 by 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."
Voter Integrity Lawsuit Initiated
Greene had in the meantime filed a lawsuit in August, 2007 to challenge the results of a controversial election two months previously in Marin County's Ross Valley, which passed a homeowner parcel flood fee.
In October, 2007, Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee rejected Greene's challenge to the requirement that the ballots be signed, stating the election "fully complied with the applicable law."
A few days later Greene appealed Judge Duryee's decision to the California State Court system.
On March 11, 2009 the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Five, ruled unanimously that the 2007 Ross Valley flood fee election was illegal as a violation of the state California Constitution, and ordered Judge Duryee to annul the vote.
On March 17, 2009, Marin's Board of Supervisors decided in closed session to ask the Court Of Appeal for a rehearing, in order to argue that the signed ballots were in fact secret. Supervisor Brown also stated he would ask the Marin County Board of Supervisors for a new vote on the flood issue, but no further details on how this new vote would be held were disclosed.
On April 7, 2009, the California Court of Appeal rejected the Marin County request for a rehearing of the March 11 ruling. The Marin Board of Supervisors announced the next day that it would appeal the case to the California Supreme Court. The case came to an end on June 7, 2010, when the California Supreme Court ruled against Greene by unanimously reversing the Appeals Court decision and allowing the results of the controversial election to stand.
- 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.
- 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
- Ford Greene: attorney at odds, article by the 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.
- Russell, Ron (2005-10-05). "Sign of the Cult-Buster". SF Weekly. Village Voice Media. http://www.sfweekly.com/2005-10-05/news/sign-of-the-cult-buster/. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Morgan, Lucy (1998-01-28). "Hardball: When Scientology goes to court, it likes to play rough -- very rough.". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.sptimes.com/News/32899/TampaBay/Hardball.html. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Ortega, Tony (2008-06-27). "Scientology's Crushing Defeat". The Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-06-24/news/Scientologys-Crushing-Defeat/1. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Leiby, Richard (2002-05-10). "Ex-Scientologist Collects $8.7 Million In 22-Year-Old Case". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2012-09-15. https://archive.is/5DNt. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Pressman, Steven (1994-12). "Litigation Noir: the perils of suing Scientology". California Lawyer. http://www.fordgreene.com/ca-lawyer-1994-12.html. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Russell, Ron (2000-12-21). "Brained". New Times. Archived from the original on 2001-02-18. http://web.archive.org/web/20010218105504/http://www.rickross.com/reference/scientology/scien265.html. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Russell, Ron (2005-10-05). "Sign of the Cult-Buster". SF Weekly. Village Voice Media. http://www.sfweekly.com/2005-10-05/news/sign-of-the-cult-buster/. Retrieved 2007-10-27.
- Town, lawyer settle sign dispute, Marin Independent Journal, October 20, 2005
- Marin Independent Journal, August 4, 2007 Fordgreene.com
- Sparks fly as town picks new council member, Marin Independent Journal, October 19, 2006
- Greene, Thornton win San Anselmo race, The Marin Independent Journal, November 11, 2007
- Official Ford Greene Home Page
- Ford Greene profile at ICSA
- Ford Greene: attorney at odds, article by the Marin Independent Journal