Attorney for Abuse Victims Joins Diocese Bankruptcy Case
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
January 20, 2014
Another bankruptcy attorney will soon be billing the Diocese of Gallup for legal services, but this attorney will be advocating on behalf of clergy sex abuse survivors.
California attorney James I. Stang was selected by the Unsecured Creditors Committee to be its proposed legal counsel. The committee, which was appointed by the Office of the U.S. Trustee in December, is made up of seven clergy abuse survivors from the Gallup Diocese. The committee’s responsibility is to represent the interests of abuse survivors in the diocese’s Chapter 11 reorganization.
Stang, a bankruptcy attorney with the Los Angeles firm of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones, has extensive experience with clergy sex abuse litigation and Roman Catholic Church bankruptcy cases.
His firm has represented Creditors Committees in cases involving nine church entities: the Diocese of Spokane, the Diocese of Davenport, the Diocese of San Diego, the Diocese of Fairbanks, the Diocese of Wilmington, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Christian Brothers’ Institute, the Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc., and the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province. Once Stang’s appointment is approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma, the Creditors Committee for the Diocese of Gallup will make case number ten.
Stang’s law firm is also currently “consulting with counsel for sexual abuse survivors with claims against another Catholic diocese and the survivors are negotiating a settlement with the diocese,” Stang wrote in his declaration to the court. “Given the confidentiality of the negotiations,” he said, “I am not allowed to identify the name of the diocese.”
In addition, Stang said, his law firm also “periodically donates funds to organizations that advocate on behalf of sexual abuse victims” and other victims of crime.
Prior to his selection, Stang stated he had consulted with attorneys who represent Gallup clergy sex abuse claimants and met with representatives of the Diocese of Gallup beginning in 2012. Since the diocese filed its Chapter 11 petition on Nov. 12, 2013, Stang has appeared at two bankruptcy hearings and the first meeting of creditors.
“Neither I nor the Firm has received or requested any compensation for any of the consultations, appearances or conversations,” Stang wrote in his declaration.
With Stang’s selection, however, the Diocese of Gallup will responsible for payment of Stang’s legal services to the Unsecured Creditors Committee. Like the diocese’s own battery of bankruptcy attorneys, Stang’s hourly rates are steep. Stang proposed an interim compensation of a $500 hourly rate, and a final compensation of a $650 hourly rate subject to the committee’s approval. Proposed hourly rates for his firm’s paralegals run $175 to $255.
The first Unsecured Creditors Committee meeting was held Dec. 19, 2013. It featured sworn testimony by Bishop James S. Wall and Christopher G. Linscott, the diocese’s recently hired financial consultant, about the Diocese of Gallup’s finances. The meeting is slated to reconvene at 10 a.m., Thursday, in Judge David T. Thuma’s courtroom, located in Albuquerque’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 500 Gold Ave. S.W.
The meeting is open to the public, but visitors are not allowed to bring phones, cameras or any kind of recording devices into the courtroom.