Judge OKs latest legal fees of $476K in church bankruptcy case

By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert
Guam Daily Post
January 31, 2021

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Tuesday approved $476,000 in revised legal fees and costs in the Archdiocese of Agana's two-year-old bankruptcy case.

Two days later, the judge issued an order approving stipulation for stay of proceedings and suspension of work at least until Feb. 28, 2021, except for certain matters.

The judge, in her Jan. 28 order, said all parties shall make their best efforts to reduce legal fees by limiting work in the main case and the adversary proceeding case for at least a month.

She also ordered the parties to return to mediation before Judge Robert Faris, a U.S. bankruptcy judge.

The judge approved the latest legal fees and costs that cover billings for services rendered from August to November 2020 by six local and stateside law firms, for both the archdiocese and the committee of creditors that include clergy sex abuse plaintiffs.

This is the fourth billing cycle in the archdiocese bankruptcy case.

The archdiocese's bankruptcy has so far racked up $4.38 million in legal and other professional fees and costs since Jan. 16, 2019, and the billing meter continues to tick.

The archdiocese sought bankruptcy protection to reorganize its finances and compensate the now nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse claims, while keeping all Catholic parishes and schools open.

Based on the judge's orders, the following are the approved compensation and reimbursable costs for the law firms for the latest billing cycle:

  • $217,324 for Stinson LLP, the Minnesota-based counsel for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors including Guam clergy sex abuse survivors and other creditors such as banks.
  • $113,688 for Elsaesser Anderson Chtd., Idaho-based counsel for the archdiocese.
  • $104,477 for Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch, special counsel for the archdiocese.
  • $19,912 for Guam-based attorney John Terlaje, counsel for the archdiocese.
  • $12,765 for attorney Paul Richter, special insurance counsel for the creditors' committee.
  • $7,960 for Blank Rome LLP, archdiocese special insurance counsel.

The judge's order said the debtor, the archdiocese, is authorized to pay each of the firms 90% of approved fees, and 100% expenses.

During a Jan. 15 hearing on the proposed fees, the judge sought clarification and justification on some of the billings. Some of them were duplicate entries. The counsels agreed to reduce or delete the entries, resulting in reduced rates.

In that same hearing, Assistant U.S. Trustee Curtis Ching told the court that there's "not enough progress" and still no viable plan to get the archdiocese out of bankruptcy.

The archdiocese has yet to present a compensation plan for clergy sex abuse claimants that are acceptable to all the parties. Other defendants in Guam's clergy abuse cases have started settling with the survivors.



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