The Day – Diocese of Norwich accumulates additional $ 845,000 in legal fees in bankruptcy case

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Norwich – Less than two months after a federal judge slammed the Diocese of Norwich for spending more than $ 1 million in legal and financial service fees related to its bankruptcy case, the diocese has racked up an additional $ 845,137 in fees over a recent 10 week period.

The July 15 to September 30 fee was actually $ 1,160,891, but businesses employed by the diocese had slashed rates by 30% after September 9 criticism from bankruptcy judge James Tancredi. Documents filed on Monday show that the diocese’s finance officer, Karen Huffer, reviewed the bills and did not object.

Lawyer Eric Henzy, who represents the committee of people who say they have been sexually assaulted by priests and diocesan employees, declined to comment on the new fees on Wednesday. In September, he expressed concern that the higher the legal and professional fees in the bankruptcy case, the less money there would be to distribute to victims. His office, which is paid by the diocese, charges about half that of some of the lawyers in the diocese.

New London lawyer Kelly Reardon, whose firm represents 15 of the claimants, said Tuesday she was amazed at “the diocese’s nerve” when it comes to increasing legal fees. She said this indicates the diocese is making fun of the survivors.

Reardon, who reviewed the bills, also pointed to an example of diocesan lawyers wasting money. She said the diocese was charged $ 5,000 to write a one-and-a-quarter page notice to compel creditors to disclose information about their interests. But she said it was written a month before they even received a request on Oct. 19 to produce the disclosure and had a chance to respond, meaning the notice might not even be. necessary.

The diocese’s public relations firm did not respond to an email Wednesday requesting comment on the bills.

Indianapolis-based law firm Ice Miller billed the diocese $ 372,923, or 70% of its $ 532,748 in fees. Combined with expenses of $ 13,006, his bill for 817 hours of work was $ 385,930. His average hourly rate was $ 655. Half of those hours were billed by partners who charge $ 835 and $ 795 per hour, respectively.

The Robinson + Cole law firm in Hartford billed the diocese $ 120,390, or 70% of its fees of $ 171,986 for 382 hours of work. Combined with $ 2,321 in expenses, it requests a payment of $ 122,711. Its rates range from $ 270 per hour for a paralegal to $ 875 for work performed by an associate of the firm. The firm’s itemized invoice consists of 26 pages.

B. Riley Advisory Services, a financial services firm with 70 offices across the country, billed the diocese $ 240,041, or 70% of the $ 342,916 in fees incurred for 801 hours of work, as well as $ 76 in expenses. His invoice totals 25 pages of detailed expenses.

The Norwich Brown Jacobsen firm billed the diocese $ 3,403, or 70% of the $ 4,862 committed. Combined with $ 186 for expenses, his total bill was $ 3,589. The firm’s partners, Michael Driscoll and Jeffrey Godley, billed the diocese $ 110 an hour, a fraction of the fees billed by other firms, for 44 hours of work. These fees were then reduced by 30%.

The firm of Henzy, Zeisler and Zeisler of Bridgeport billed the diocese $ 92,790 for 240 hours of work from August 19 to September 30 at an average rate of $ 386.

In July, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy against more than 60 men who filed lawsuits accusing them of being raped and sexually assaulted as boys by Christian Brothers and other members. from the staff of the Mount Saint John Academy, managed by the Diocese of Deep River. from 1990 to 2002. Mount Saint John was a boarding school for troubled boys with a board of directors headed by retired Bishop of Norwich Daniel Reilly. Since then, others whose sexual assault allegations involved not only Mount Saint John but also diocesan churches have filed claims.

This summer, the diocese initially placed its assets, including cash, investments, cars and accounts receivable, at $ 21.2 million, but has yet to publicly declare the current value of the 14 properties it has. he owns. In its initial bankruptcy filing, the diocese estimated its assets at $ 10 million to $ 50 million, but its liabilities at $ 50 to $ 100 million. In recent years, settlements paid to individual victims who say they were sexually assaulted by priests and sued the diocese have averaged around $ 1 million each.

No deadline has yet been set for filing claims, but court documents indicate that a deadline of February 10, 2022 is under discussion. The next court hearing on the case is scheduled for November 9, when the deadline could be set. You can find information on bankruptcy and filing claims at dm.epiq11.com/case/rcdn/info.

j.wojtas@theday.com


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