Even as he attempts to get his arms around the affairs of the Chicago Archdiocese, Archbishop Blaise Cupich continues to be entangled in the bitter lawsuit he filed against his own law firm in Spokane.
In two weeks, Cupich is expected to return to his former Diocese, to provide a second sworn deposition in the case.
At issue, is Cupich’s allegation that the law firm, Paine Hamblen, was guilty of malpractice, failing to provide adequate legal counsel in a thorny bankruptcy, stemming from millions of dollars in sexual abuse claims. He further contended that the firm had an inherent conflict of interest, never revealed to the bankruptcy court, because it had represented the previous Bishop, William Skylstad, who was accused of failing to adequately protect parishoners from another priest.
Ironically, in his own deposition, Skylstad defended Paine Hamblen. And the Spokane Diocese’s previous Vicar General, Steven Dublinski, said he resigned because he so opposed the actions Cupich had taken.
“I think I just mentioned that we’d done the best that we could,” Skylstad said, in a deposition given earlier this year, “and that Paine Hamblen had done remarkably well in bringing us to this plan of reorganization which was finally approved.”
In his own deposition in the case, Dublinski said he tried to convince Cupich that he was wrong about Paine Hamblen’s work.
“I told Bishop Cupich that it was incaccurate, and I had told his attorneys it was incaccure,” he said. “He had two responses. One is that ‘We’re throwing mud at Paine Hamblen to see if any mud sticks.’ And two, that we had to say all these other things to activate their insurance.”
After that, Dublinski said he made the decision that he could no longer serve as Vicar General.
“Vicar General should be able to support and represent this Bishop,” he said. “So I offered my resignation.”
In an interview just prior to taking office in Chicago, Cupich suggested to NBC5’s Mary Ann Ahern that he still hoped to avoid a trial in the case.
“I really believe in a mediated process,” he said. “Because I think that when you get people in a room, and let them talk to each other, a lot can get done.”
But the acrimony is thick in the case. Last week, Paine Hamblen prevailed in a motion to compel the Diocese to turn over a raft of documents. And Thursday, Cupich and the Diocese filed a new motion, repeating their contention that the law firm had hidden a conflict of interest from the Bankruptcy Court. It is their contention that Paine Hamblen concealed the fact that it had represented Skylstad individually in the case of an accused pedophile priest. Paine Hamblen contends their representation was in keeping with their role as the Diocesan attorneys, and that no conflict existed.
It all appears headed for trial in February. Cupich is scheduled to return to Spokane for his second deposition December 15th.