Why Ananda Didn’t Appeal the Bertolucci Case

The following is an excerpt from attorney Jon Parsons’ entertaining book about the SRF and Bertolucci cases, A Fight For Religious Freedom: A Lawyer’s Personal Account of Copyrights, Karma and Dharmic Litigation.

After the Bertolucci trial, Ananda consulted numerous experts in hopes of finding an attorney who would take on an appeal of the verdict on a pro bono basis. One legal expert, after reviewing the trial transcript, stated, “This verdict has the shelf life of an apple.”

Ananda Does Not Appeal | 1998

Even without the punitive damages the judgment remained a terrible burden. The trash sanction had doomed the case. It was unrelated to any arguable wrong­doing, and prevented Ananda from cross-examining these inflammatory witnesses as their irrelevant stories were paraded past the jury. We all felt that an appeal would be successful. But what did success on appeal mean in this situation?

The lawsuit had generated inflammatory coverage in the press. Local papers de­pend on headlines to move papers, and this case generated several. They all played up the “swami” and sex aspects, with little regard for the facts. For example, at one point Kriyananda obtained Judge Stevens’ approval to return to India on business. The papers, however, portrayed him “fleeing to India.” The continuing negative press was itself a burden that we longed to have behind us.

By now Ananda was stretched too thin. It had loyal supporters and generous benefactors, but everyone was stunned by the way this cosmic drama had played out. How could Ananda pay for an appeal in this case, with the second SRF ap­peal still hanging fire? And after spending a hundred thousand dollars and a couple years, a glorious victory in the appeals court would only send the case back for re­trial, where we would have to do it all over again. More months of trial. More un­certainty and cost. And now there were two new lawsuits. Ananda decided it could not afford to appeal, even though the trial had been a travesty. Instead, it would learn lessons and move on.