The Merrell-Wolff Fellowship Lawsuit

The Lawsuit by the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship against its founder, Doroethy Leonard, was settled in Mediation on November 12, 2012. Below is (1) Doroethy's letter (December 9, 2012) to supporters, (2) Ron's summary of the Settlement Agreement, and (3) Doroethy's original appeal for support.

We are exceedingly grateful for the emotional and financial support we have received. However, because we hope that donations will eventually cover most of our legal expenses, we have decided for a time to continue to request donations.

Implementation is progressing, and as we gain more clarity we shall unfold our vision for the future of Franklin's legacy, including personal contacts and activities online and at the Great Space Center.

(1) Dear Friends,

Well, the Fellowship's Lawsuit against me was settled in Mediation—an interesting process. I am still reeling from the 10 hours with Bob Holland, Chuck Post, their two attorneys present and another attorney by phone in one room, and Ron, myself and our attorney in the other room. The mediating attorney went from room to room. I am okay with most of the settlement, but truly sad to have to sign away 25% of the SUNY Press copyrights (My brother kept his 50%.). Still, after 10 hours...and 11 pages of legalese, plus 5+ more for the Deed of Gift (to Stanford)...

A special thank you to those of you who have given me personal support, as well as financial support. The balance owed is $4200, so if you wish to help with this, let me know.

There are a few things in the Settlement that are still rather nebulous. I did keep title to the library books, for which I am grateful. The Fellowship wants items that Franklin used in his Lone Pine office? But Franklin kept very few "mementos" as such, and items that he used in his office were minimal! In any case, photos of these items, including copies of photos on the walls, are to be part of the Stanford donation, but the physical items will remain in his office for those who visit The Great Space Center to connect with Franklin's legacy.

Re Stanford: I had contacted Stanford almost two years ago, and I am very grateful that they want Franklin's Work. Holland had also contacted Stanford and for some reason the archivist did not share that. The archivist in charge of receiving Franklin's work has written me that they are NOT interested in Sherifa's (Grandmother's) or Gertrude's Work. They are only interested in Franklin's writings and correspondence, and his personal books that have "extendive notes." Franklin did not believe in writing or underlining in books. Ann (Redwood) Radford, although mentioned in the settlement, has said she does not have an inventory; therefore, Chuck Post will inventory Franklin's library in spring.

I am happy that Stanford, the Fellowship and my family will all have rights to Franklin's Work and letters. It will take a very long time for the Fellowship to sort things out—organizing files, getting copies to me and themselves, and sending originals to Stanford. They have the $25,000 donation they received by selling Brugh Joy's manufactured home, which will support this. I am publishing everythig I think is of interest now (See Works Page). I will have another flyer out with the Winter 2013 Sangha. I am also thinking of a full collection of the transcriptions I have made since they have been proofed, with corrections.

What is next for us? While spending my mother's last years with her, she gave me her files, along with my father's and Grandfather Briggs' letters, which track much of Grandmother's (Sherifa's) life. (Everything related to or by Franklin (or Sherifa's) work is being collected by Chuck on December 11.)

I also will share the family myth via Sherifa as she shared with me and/or my mother. I will be writing a short biography on her, as she was such a strong influence on my life, although we are very different from each other. Grandfather Briggs, Grandmother and Franklin all remained friends their whole lives. The three of them would travel to visit Mom and Dad throuout the years. I will do this writing next summer in Lone Pine and in their 'presence'.

Doroethy Leonard

(2) Dear Supporters,

Thank you all so very much for your encouragement and financial contributions that made it possible to persevere through this unnecessary Lawsuit by the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship (FMWF) until we could reach a reasonable Settlement Agreement. Essentially, its salient features are:

  1. As co-donors, Doroethy and the FMWF are donating to Stanford University the title to the Works in their respective possession (writings, tapes, etc.) of Franklin and his two wives, as well as correspondence to/from Franklin, and writings about Franklin's life and work (excluding Doroethy's biography of Franklin, which she will retain). Both Doroethy and FMWF will receive a perpetual, non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to use these, so long as it is accompanied by a statement that Stanford owns the Collection, including copyrights. (Terms of the Stanford U. Deed of Gift cannot be disclosed.)
  2. FMWF will inventory Franklin's library books (in Spring 2013) and make digital copies of those deemed to be of historical importance, including any marginal notes. Inventory and digital copies are to be included in the donation.
  3. FMWF will make an inventory and digital copies of items that Franklin used in his office (memorabilia). Doroethy shall keep such items that are deemed to have special family importance once photographed; FMWF shall have title to the rest of these items, but they shall remain in Franklin's office at the Gtreat Space Center for Doroethy's use. Such inventory and digital copies shall be part of the donation.
  4. FMWF will collect, copy, store and deliver to Stanford U at their expense all items, from both Doroethy and FMWF, to be donated. When copied, the professional copier shall deliver full sets of copies to both Doroethy and FMWF.
  5. FMWF will receive title to one-half of Doroethy's 50% undivided interest in the SUNY copyrights to Franklin's books.
  6. FMWF will respect Doroethy's right to the trade names "Sangha" and "Merrell-Wolff Press"; Doroethy will grant FMWF a perpetual, royalty-free use of the trade name "Franklin Merrell-Wolff Conference," with appropriate acknowledgment of permission. FMWF will exclusively own the trade name, "Phoenix Philosophical Press."
  7. Doroethy's title to the RV that stands on her 1-acre property at the Great Space Center is confirmed.
  8. Before 11-22-12 the FMWF Lawsuit shall be dismissed with prejudice.
  9. Mutual releases, warranties and non-disparagement clauses are included.

Ron Leonard

(3) The following letter is included to set the historical context for the Lawsuit.

Dear Friends of Franklin Merrell-Wolff,

Sadly I received a summons today (March 21, 2012). This is from the Fellowship’s Board! I am shaky and frightened that my small savings is going to go to a suit to defend my wanting my own grandfather’s (and grandmother’s) work! Through my attorney, we notified the Fellowship’s Board that I was willing to share everything I have of Franklin’s work. They refused and say they want exclusive use of his work. This means I would have to hand over everything and be unable to keep copies of anything for myself, or for my family and friends. I am sick about this. Other than Bob Holland and Dorene, I thought these Board members were my friends.

They want me not to use the Phoenix Philosophical Press name, to which I had already agreed. Now they claim to own the Sangha newsletter, even though they already have their own newsletter. They want Franklin’s desk and his books, a tape recorder (my brother has) and typewriter—the Fellowship’s headquarters is in Wisconsin, so it seems strange to house things there! His books and desk belong in his office. They want the audio tapes (they already have the reel-to-reel audio tapes of Bill Stow). They want exclusive ownership of correspondence and unpublished manuscripts (not much in the files).

Holland wrote in an email to a mutual friend that two of the Board members “have deep pockets” and thus are willing to sue. Well, I am living on Social Security and a pension of $500 a month and the interest on my children’s Trust. So I do need to ask for your help! I am so sorry and embarrassed to have to do so. I am willing to sell a couple of pieces of jewelry I inherited, and a few other things, such as an old grandfather’s clock I inherited from Grandfather Briggs. I am willing to try to get a Home Equity loan. But defending myself against the Fellowship’s Tucson, AZ, attorneys will cost well over $10,000 on top of the $10,000 I’ve already spent. I am only asking for small donations, but there are many of you who are friends of what I am doing.

Things the Board of the Merrell-Wolff Fellowship may not want you to know:

  1. The Board is overseeing the Fellowship’s finances:
    1. The Board’s bank account balance was $10,000 when Ron and I resigned.
    2. The Board sold Brugh Joy’s manufactured home for $25,000.
    3. The Board demanded I sign over the RV’s title to the Fellowship, which I did July 1st. Then a few days later, their Tucson attorney had them refuse the title and say I have to pay for damages. There are no damages, as attested to by Doug Buchanan, a Bishop, CA, local attorney, as well as Walter Dilts, who lives on the RV acreage I own.
  2. When Ron and I were on the Board, the Board meetings were open and announced; and minutes, with annual financial reports, were available to all who asked. This is, apparently, no longer their procedure.
  3. The latest list of Board members is: Bob Holland, Chuck Post (Chair, the only office position given on their website list), Tom Kelley, Bill Stow, Ed Sisson (attorney), Jeff Baker, and Dorene Pratt White. Other than Bob and Chuck, I don’t know which offices are held by whom. Bob Holland has been Executive Director since Fall 2010, and there is no reason to believe that he has relinquished that position. However, according to my summons, Holland signed it as Treasurer, which is interesting.

I have dedicated my whole adult life to Franklin’s Work, which is my love. This possibility of losing it is a great sadness for me, but also for my children and grandchildren who could lose access to their spiritual heritage. Please consider giving what you can to help us fight back!

With gratitude to you, my friends,