The Catholic Diocese of Spokane has settled a lawsuit filed by Chicago’s current Archbishop Blaise Cupich when he was Bishop of the Church in Washington.
Cupich had filed the suit against the Diocese’s longtime law firm, accusing them of malpractice in the handling of a Church bankruptcy.
Terms of the settlement were not revealed. But in an order entered with the court Friday, both sides agreed that the firm, Paine Hamblen, had done nothing wrong.
“Paine Hamblen, it’s attorneys and staff did not act in bad faith,” the settlement states, “and did not engage in knowing or fraudulent misconduct in connection with their representation of the Catholic Bishop at any time.
The matter was to have gone to trial next month. Cupich and the Diocese had sought a return of the $3.5 million paid in fees to Paine Hamblen during the bankruptcy proceeding. That issue was tabled.
“The court’s order…approving fees paid to Paine Hamblen is confirmed in all respects,” the order stated. “There is no basis for the Court…to require Paine Hamblen to disgorge any portion of the fees paid in connection with this case, or to impose sanctions on Paine Hamblen.”
On its face, the settlement would appear to be a resounding vindication for the firm, in a case where the acrimony had run so deep, the wife of one attorney had written a heartfelt letter to the Vatican.
At one point, Lori Arpin and her husband Greg had been named as defendants in the case.
“My husband and I are in the process of reevaluating our Catholic faith as a result of unjust actions taken against us,” she said in the letter to Pope Francis last January. “In taking this vindictive and unjust legal action, Bishop Cupich has ignored all decisions made in the matter by (his predecessor) Bishop Skylstad, his canonical advisors, and the Bankruptcy Court.”
“We are stunned and hurt to the core by Bishop Cupich’s action against us,” she said. “Our faith is shaken, especially after the total commitment made by Greg and his law firm to defend the Church, putting themselves in the line of fire, knowing the seriousness of the claims they had to settle.”
That letter was never answered.
Friday’s agreement would appear to close the books on the Spokane Diocese’s painful bankruptcy, the first of its kind in the United States.
While official terms of the settlement between the Diocese and Paine Hamblen were confidential, the two sides issued a joint statement, blessing the deal and stating that neither side was at fault.
“The parties to the litigation …have settled their disputes in a manner satisfactory to all parties,” the statement said. “The settlement does not constitute an admission of wrong doing by either side; rather, it is a resolution of differences in an amicable manner which allows the parties to move forward with the important work that each conducts in the service of the common good.”