Allen's Choice of Lawyers Raises Some Questions

By Kimball Perry
Cincinnati Post
August 31, 2004

Embroiled in a controversial sex scandal involving officials, the accused hired the Cincinnati law firm of Dinsmore and Shohl to provide a legal defense.

That scenario applies to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, convicted last year of not reporting priest sex abuse against minors.

But it also applies to Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen who now has hired the same firm, his former employer, to defend him in a sexual harassment suit filed by a subordinate.

The situation is drawing concern from victims of priest sex abuse and their attorneys, wondering if Allen and his connection -- past and present -- to Dinsmore and Shohl should result in the case against the archdiocese being re-examined.

"There is no legal conflict of interest, but the fact that he started at Dinsmore and Shohl, that he negotiated with Dinsmore and Shohl in the archdiocese case, and then he runs to Dinsmore and Shohl when he gets into trouble raises some questions," said Mason attorney Konrad Kir-cher, who has nearly 100 clients who have alleged sexual abuse by priests.

"We wonder what the implications are when you have the same law firm representing both (Allen and the archdiocese)," said Janet Abaray, a downtown lawyer representing victims of priest abuse.

"I think the bigger issue here is how Mike Allen handled the entire situation."

Allen didn't return calls Monday .

Allen struck a deal with the archdiocesan attorneys -- headed by Mark VanderLaan, of Dinsmore and Shohl -- in November that ended a contentious investigation by the prosecutor's office into possible criminal acts by the archdiocese. On behalf of the archdiocese, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk pleaded no contest to five counts of not reporting sex abuse. Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Niehaus convicted the archdiocese of the crimes and fined it $10,000.

The deal ended the criminal investigation. The archdiocese, as part of the deal, also set up a $3 million victim compensation fund.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said it saw no problem in Allen's choice of attorneys.

"There are no grounds for upsetment or concern. It sounds as though Allen simply wanted good representation, and he sought it with former co-workers. If you are looking to know who the top law firms in Cincinnati are, certainly Dinsmore's name is right up there," said Tricia Hempel.

But Christy Miller, an abuse victim and a Cincinnati representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she wondered what the embattled Allen, a graduate of Elder High School, might have done to help out the archdiocese against allegations, many involving priests who served at Elder.

"Funny how Mike Allen finds himself in the same position," Miller said Monday. "Funny how he is an Elder grad and all of this involves Elder. I really question (Allen's) motives now in light of what has happened."

What has happened is Allen's public admission last week of his adultery, a years-long extramarital affair with assistant prosecutor Rebecca Collins. A day after Allen's admission, Collins filed a federal sexual harassment suit against Allen.

To defend himself against Collins' allegations, Allen hired attorney Michael Hawkins of Dinsmore and Shohl.

Before becoming prosecutor, Allen worked as an attorney at Dinsmore and Shohl.

Allen's connections to the firm on so many levels has raised questions now, Kircher said.

VanderLaan wouldn't address the issue. "We don't comment on our clients."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.