Archdiocese Moves to Hire Joseph Dixon III for Special Criminal Defense

By Jennifer Bjorhus
Star Tribune
June 16, 2015

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is seeking to hire former federal prosecutor Joseph Dixon III to defend it against new criminal and civil accusations that it failed to protect children from an abusive priest.

And given that the archdiocese is in bankruptcy and short on cash, Dixon is charging a reduced rate of $400 an hour, court documents show.

“This reflects a substantial discount,” Dixon said in his engagement letter.

The papers are part of the archdiocese’s application to hire Dixon and the law firm where he works, Fredrikson & Byron, as special criminal counsel. The application was filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, a day after the church’s sexual abuse scandal forced the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt and his second in command, Bishop Lee Anthony Piche.

Dixon is a legal sharpshooter, a well-regarded former assistant U.S. attorney best known for sending Ponzi fraudster Tom Petters to prison. After a stint at insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc., he jumped to Fredrikson & Byron — and to the defense side of the bar — saying he missed the courtroom.

Dixon didn’t respond Tuesday to messages for comment.

The archdiocese said it needs Dixon because the recent criminal charges could affect the availability of insurance to cover mounting claims, and have “serious repercussions” on the bankruptcy estate’s finances. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi filed the charges earlier this month.

Dixon’s fees would add to the stack of legal bills generated since the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Jan. 16. It has been racking up legal and professional costs at the rate of $473,000 to $887,000 a month, the archdiocese estimates. The latest monthly operating report, filed for April, shows the church owed nearly $1.6 million in legal and professional fees. Most of the costs are for the archdiocese’s main bankruptcy attorneys at Briggs and Morgan.








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