The SRF Lawsuit Experience – In Gratitude

Rob Christopher was a member of the small legal team that defended the massive ten-year initiated against Ananda by SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship). At issue were critical precedents for the future of Yogananda’s work, and for small groups similar to Ananda who might face similar attempts to put them out of business.

Rob wrote this letter in May of 2013, on the occasion of Ananda’s retirement of its large legal debt.

May 16, 2013

Dear All,

Attorney Rob Christopher helped defend Ananda win the massive lawsuit filed by SRF.

Attorney Rob Christopher helped  Ananda win the massive lawsuit filed by SRF.

I’m very sorry I can’t be there with you to celebrate the retiring of the legal debt burden to which we lawyers so greatly contributed.  (If I’m going to do a confession, I may as well drag Jon and Rich down into the mud with me.)  My wife, Ginny, and I are currently on a long-planned vacation in the Charleston, South Carolina area.

Peter Marshall, the Scottish-American preacher who twice served as Chaplain of the United States Senate, wrote of suffering, as many of you probably know, as follows:  “When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”    I can think of no more fitting sentiment and epitaph about the costly and unjust ordeal you endured over 10 years ago now.  The contrary winds and incredible pressures that you have survived would have destroyed any lesser cause, any lesser faith.  I know, therefore, that you will persevere through whatever challenges you face in the new era just begun with the recent passing of Swami Kriyananda.

I thank you for this rare, second chance to share yet a few more thoughts about the legal war we fought together.  Late last year I pulled out and watched again my now-treasured video of the 2003 Legal Satsang at the Village.  After getting over how young we all looked, I was reminded by this enduring record of both what we achieved together, and how thankful I still am, from the bottom of my heart, to you, especially you who chose me and you who worked with me, for the extraordinary opportunity to have served your community in a time of real significance and need.  Few are the genuine moments in any private legal career when we enjoy truly meaningful success for the best of people and worthiest of clients.

I have come to believe that all our lives are better for that terrible test of wills and faith.  I hope to learn from you on a later occasion if and how that is true for you.  For myself, I absolutely know it is, because:

First, you inspired in me a sense of karmic balance and destiny, and a belief that sometimes the touch of God can be palpably real.  I recall vividly the moments that it seemed there was a divine presence at our shoulders, helping us make right judgment calls, helping our judge somehow hear the truth of critical arguments – sometimes arguments that he already had once declined to hear – ,  helping our jury see who you really are and what SRF was really trying to do, and even tossing the “bad guy” out of the courtroom in a manner I’ve never seen nor heard of before or since.

Second, a couple years ago, I tried to a jury another big case against an under-handed, powerful, determined and even more well-financed foe, and thanks to you I was ready, and so a good company saved its reputation and was fully compensated for millions of dollars in commercial loss.

Third, you also helped me fully understand the waste that our legal system often commits in the name of justice, and the need to do something about it.  Consequently, I recently decided to re-focus my professional energy on an innovative company and non-adversarial method for good people to resolve honest disputes fairly, quickly and inexpensively.  The name of the company is Just Resolve.  Please visit my website and tell me what you think.  (And, in case you’re wondering, no, SRF never would have agreed to it.)

Fourth, not long after our legal journey together ended, I felt a long-suppressed need to introduce more pure “fun” and balance into my life, so I unleashed my inner “ham” to act and sing on stage in civic theater musicals.  I even have been lucky enough to play some “bucket list” roles like the Music Man, and the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.

Finally, you gave me the following indelible memory snapshots to enjoy:  That first meeting in my San Jose conference room with what I still think of as “The Committee.”  A later first introduction to Kriyananda in Palo Alto.  The first hearings in Sacramento with Judge Garcia.  The challenging video deposition of Daya Mata in Los Angeles.  Dealing with the dark villainy and hypocrisy of certain opposing counsel who paraded as crusaders of righteousness.  Finding, presenting and cross-examining experts about a sideshow involving Mexican copyright law.  The nightly trade-off of sleep vs. preparation during the weeks of trial by all members of an egoless, unselfish team.  Quiet walks along the Sacramento River bank to try to capture clear perspectives.  The extra preparation by all our witnesses and team so that none could be falsely portrayed as “bad” people.  Our success in putting their lawyers and real intentions on trial.  The indomitable spirits, invaluable contributions and always-encouraging faces of Sheila, Cathy, the Smallens, the Novaks, the Pravers, Kathy, Rich, Jon, and so many others.

Let me close as I began, and repeat how truly sorry we lawyers are that you had to pay such a high price, in so many ways, to be our favorite client of all time, most worthy career moment, and most cherished win.  But we are joyously glad to have been chosen to make the journey with you.

Very Warmest Regards,

Rob Christopher

 

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