Spiritualist Chopra Tirelessly Tangles With Courts


Detroit News, March 17, 2000
By Tony Perry

SAN DIEGO -- This is a tale of the nasty fight between the guru and the judges. Even the governor has been dragged into the fray.

Deepak Chopra, the New Age superstar and best-selling author who preaches the value of cosmic harmony and inner tranquillity, is at war with San Diego's judicial system.

It began with claims of sexual harassment by two women who formerly worked at Chopra's mind-body wellness center here. Chopra fought back with his own lawsuits against one of the women, her lawyers and investigators he accused of stealing his lawyer's trash.

Chopra, 53, who lives in La Jolla, is adamant that the women and their lawyers, with the help of conniving judges, are trying to extort money from him with lies.

"I look at these people as hyenas after my blood and marrow just because they think I have money," said Chopra, whose yearly income has been estimated at $15 million.

The India-born, Western-educated endocrinologist teaches that inner harmony can fight off disease and aging.

During six years of litigation, four judges have become so infuriated at the hardball and accusatory tactics of Chopra's lawyers in five different cases that they voluntarily recused themselves.

"In my more than 30 years as a trial lawyer and as a Superior Court judge, I have never witnessed such misleading, manipulative, distorted, deceptive, vitriolic action by any lawyer or law firm," Superior Court Judge John Einhorn told a Chopra lawyer before bowing out.

Chopra's lawyers have complained to the FBI, the California Supreme Court and the state Commission on Judicial Performance about the judges.

Chopra wrote to California Gov. Gray Davis about the jurist he sees as his major nemesis, Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell: "I feel impotent and paralyzed because (of) the cronyism and corruption in the San Diego judicial system."

Chopra's complaint comes as McConnell is under consideration by Davis for appointment to a state Court of Appeal post in San Diego. When Davis hosted the California Governor's Conference for Women in October in Long Beach, Chopra was a featured speaker.

Davis responded to Chopra: "You may be assured that your views will receive due consideration when this appointment comes up for my review."

Chopra is convinced that he has fallen into a judicial snare in which out-of-town lawyers -- his are from a Boston-based firm -- do not stand a chance against certain well-connected San Diego firms.

One that opposes Chopra is Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich, among the city's premier law firms.

Chopra and his attorneys insist that McConnell, by ruling against Chopra, is trying to curry favor with the law firm to gain its backing for her prospective promotion.

"I want this on the record: I am going to get Judge Judith McConnell in the end; she will not get away with this corruption," Chopra told a reporter during a break from a tour for his 25th book, "How to Know God."

Litigation does not occur in a civic vacuum, and for years some San Diego judges had a locals-only ethos that discouraged outsiders.

Three judges and a once high-flying litigator were convicted in 1996 in federal court in a gifts-for-favors scandal that prosecutors asserted blew the lid off a cozy bench-bar relationship that had flourished for decades. Testimony showed that cases were steered toward "friendly" judges.

Chopra believes that his case is just the latest chapter of that scandal, with different judges but the same kind of insidious localism. Talk like that leaves some normally reticent judges sputtering.

"The judges of this court continue to pay for the sins of Mickey Greer (and the other two convicted judges, James Malkus and Dennis Adams) and be open to unjust and unwarranted accusations, totally lacking in fact and substance," said Presiding Judge Wayne Peterson.

Chopra's lawyers say he views the fight as a quest to bring the truth to light. He has already spent far more in legal fees than settling the cases would have cost him.

"I think Deepak is being used by God to expose the corruption in the San Diego judicial system," said Carla DiMare of Boston-based Flynn, Sheridan, Tabb & Stillman.

Hardly a week goes by that one or more of the cases is not before one court or another, with Chopra winning some rounds, losing others, but always pressing on.

"The reason that this litigation has gone on so long is that neither Deepak Chopra or his lawyers know when to quit," said lawyer James Huston, of Gray, Cary. "Every time a ruling goes against them their response is that this shows the conspiracy is broader and deeper than they imagined."

Chopra attorneys say the litigation has dragged on because judges have used "corrupt motions" to keep them from presenting their evidence to a jury.

Here's the short course on the five cases, four of which McConnell handled at some point:


  • Jyl Auxter, who claimed she was harassed by one of Chopra's partners, received a judge-ordered $11,000 judgment against Chopra's company. He is appealing.


  • Vicky Weaver lost her employment-discrimination case last week when a jury found that she was not an employee of Chopra's company, Infinite Possibilities Inc., but rather of a hospital that was sponsoring Chopra's work. She alleged that she was fired after she rejected his advances.


  • Chopra's invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against a former Gray, Cary attorney was dismissed by McConnell. Chopra appealed and won the right to continue a much-reduced version of the suit.


  • Chopra's lawsuit against investigators for allegedly stealing trash was settled with an agreement by one of the investigators to provide testimony in the other cases. There is now squabbling over whether that agreement is being honored.


  • A jury in January rejected Chopra's countersuit against Weaver for allegedly trying to blackmail him with false claims. On Wednesday, a different judge granted Chopra's bid for a new trial, ruling that the jury may have been influenced by a previous judge's negative comments about Chopra's lawyers.

    Of the numerous points of contention in the cases, none has been more hotly contested than the issue of whether a letter written by one of the Gray, Cary lawyers in 1996 to one of Chopra's attorneys is admissible as evidence.

    In the letter, attorney Dennis Schoville said he was preparing a lawsuit against Chopra on behalf of Weaver. He noted that the case would be likely to result in "a high degree of publicity."

    Chopra attorney Carla DiMare called the letter "on its face, an attempt at extortion." Gray, Cary responded that the letter was just a routine settlement offer.

    McConnell and the appeals court agreed with that view -much to Chopra's chagrin.

    Judges Robert O'Neill, Thomas Murphy, Einhorn, and McConnell have all declined comment on Chopra. All four have recused themselves.

    Just how the Chopra controversy will affect McConnell's chance to get an appeals bench spot is unknown.

    Chopra, who usually preaches the danger of holding "toxic emotions," says he has only begun to fight.

    "I'm angry, yet I'm not vindictive," he said. "I just feel they should have to pay for this."


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