Tort Law

Spokane Diocese Sues Law Firm That Handled Its Bankruptcy, Seeks $12M Legal Fee Clawback and Damages

Updated: The Catholic Diocese of Spokane has filed a malpractice suit against the law firm that handled its $50 million bankruptcy, contending that the church was ill-served by the strategy Paine Hamblen developed to deal with priest sex-abuse issues.

The suit, which was spearheaded by Bishop Blase Cupich after he took office two years ago, also questions the law firm’s timing in filing for bankruptcy at a time when that filing shielded the then-bishop from testifying in a civil case, reports the Spokesman-Review. The law firm represented both the church and its then-bishop at a time when he was named as an individual defendant, concerning his role as an administrator, in litigation against the diocese.

The church reportedly is seeking a total of $12 million, including a legal-fees clawback and compensatory damages in the Spokane County Superior Court action.

Jane Brown, who serves as the law firm’s managing partner, defended Paine Hamblen’s “extraordinary” work, and said the law firm stands by it.

“We kind of feel like the new bishop is not fully informed and doesn’t really understand under what circumstances any judgment calls were made,” Brown told the newspaper. “They were facing hundreds of millions of dollars in claims that dwarfed the church’s financial resources, and the diocese and parishes have been able to continue.”

A Catholic News Service article provides further details.

Additional and related coverage:

Associated Press (2010): “Thousands welcome Bishop Cupich as head of Spokane Catholic Diocese”

KREM: “Bishop explains why he’s suing former Catholic Diocese lawyers”

National Catholic Reporter: “Washington diocese sues former lawyers for malpractice”

Spokesman-Review (2010): “Judge overturns contempt finding of Catholic Diocese”

Last updated on Oct.18 to include additional information from and link to subsequent Catholic News Service article.

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