High court rejects Nxivm appeal

Company had sued researcher over cult label, criticism on Web

Times Union/December 3, 2004
By Dennis Yusko

Albany -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied without elaboration an appeal to review a case involving a Colonie human potential training company, free speech and the Internet.

The top court refused this week to hear from Nxivm, which hired the Washington law firm Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood to have allegations that the company is a cult struck from the Web site of cult researcher Rick Ross.

The decision moves the case and a $10 million suit filed by Nxivm back to U.S. District Court in Albany, which, along with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, already has rejected the injunction requests.

Nxivm sued Ross, two mental health experts and a former Nxivm student last year on the grounds that the student gave a Nxivm manual to Ross after signing a confidentiality agreement. Two doctors then characterized Nxivm as a cult.

The Supreme Court's decision did not surprise Ross, who has criticized Nxivm's founders, Halfmoon residents Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman, on his site with each court decision. "This is Mr. Raniere's third and final strike. Now it's official: He struck out," Ross said Thursday.

Salzman released a statement: "We're obviously disappointed with the court's decision, which we believe is a blow to the sanctity of copyright protection. We believe there are fundamental property rights issues at stake, and we intend to continue to pursue vigorously all possible causes of action against the defendants."

Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um) claims in its lawsuit that dissemination of confidential material caused the company to lose prominent members, thousands of dollars a day and more. But Ross' Albany attorney Thomas F. Gleason has portrayed the postings on Ross' Web site as Internet free speech. He has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is pending before U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe in Albany. The court will discuss the case before setting a return date, Nxivm's attorney Justin Heller said.

Nxivm -- originally Executive Success Programs -- trains people in Raniere's "Rational Inquiry" theory on New Karner Road. Plans to build a headquarters off Woodin Road in Halfmoon have collapsed since last year, when town leaders asked for more details and residents opposed it, Planning Board Chairman Stephen Watts said.

Raniere's Knox Woods neighbors have complained about cars parked around the town houses owned by Nxivm Properties LLC, Watts said, adding the town had investigated and found no unauthorized parking or uses.

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