Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Ex-Client Sues Am Law 200 Firm Over Its Catholic Church Representation, Alleging Conflict

A New Mexico woman is suing Phoenix-based Lewis Roca, alleging the firm steered her away from suing a Catholic school she attended.

By Justin Henry | December 10, 2020 at 07:05 PM

JW Note: As JW readers may remember, the legal firm headed by the name "Lewis Roca," was quite prominent a few years ago in the battle of "the Faithful vs Apuron." 

You can read all the Roca-related stories here

Apuron (circa 2015-16) had retained the Roca firm to to "prove" that he (Apuron) had not legally alienated the "Yona property" (aka "Redemptoris Mater Seminary" - then valued near $70M) and signed said property over to the Gennarini-controlled Neocat operation in the United States and the Pacific. 

Of particular note is Apuron's published challenge inviting anyone who wanted to, to personally review the Roca decision. But such persons could only review the decision between the dates of Apr. 19 and Apr. 24 (2015) and, while the document was 20 pages long, said document could not be duplicated, copied, videographed, photographed, etc., and could only be reviewed in the presence of the Chancery staff WHILE STANDING at the chancery desk. 

CCOG-retained attorney, Jaques Bronze, did in fact attempt to "review" the Roca decision. Mr. Bronze was forced by the Apuron operatives to stand while reading the 20-page document and prohibited from making copies or taking notes. You can read the entire "Bronze file" here

In short, the whole Roca matter was another Apuron farce, and it all came tumbling down in the end - as most people in the Archdiocese of Agana - if not the whole world - now now...since Apuron has been - by the pope himself - absolutely exiled form the Archdiocese of Agana. 

It is also of note that while Roca was based in Denver - an NCW stronghold in 2015 during the Apuron fiasco, in the current story, Roca is now a Phoenix-based firm and has other partners. Hmmm. 

Our advice to Roca is to stop taking money from the Neocat operatives and survive while you can.

Cannot say more now. Copied below is the article as published at Law.Com. (Highlights by JW)


    A New Mexico woman is suing her former lawyers at Phoenix-based law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie for malpractice related to its representation of her in bringing allegations that she was sexually abused by a Catholic school teacher.

    Attorneys for the former client, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the suit to protect her identity, said Lewis Roca attorneys steered her away from filing a civil lawsuit against Rhode Island Catholic institution Portsmouth Abbey School for failing to protect her from a predatory teacher when she was a student from 2012 to 2014. It wasn’t until the middle of 2020 when “Doe” learned that she could have brought a civil case against the school had she done so before turning 21, according to the suit.

    The complaint also argues that Lewis Roca failed to disclose to “Doe” potential conflicts of interest in representing her due to the school’s payment of her case’s lawyer’s fees and the firm’s history of    defending the Catholic Church against claims brought by survivors of clerical abuse.

    “If you have such a clear conflict where you routinely represent the church in cases brought by victims of sexual abuse, you have an obligation to tell that to a prospective or new client who has a potential case against the church, because there’s an obvious conflict there,” Neil Gehlawat, an attorney with Los Angeles firm Taylor & Ring who is representing the unnamed plaintiff, said in an interview.

    The suit, filed Dec. 1 in the Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Second Judicial District Court, seeks compensatory and consequential damages, reasonable costs of the suit and “such further relief as the court may deem just proper and appropriate.”

    Reached for comment Wednesday, a spokesperson for Lewis Roca said in an emailed statement that the claims in Doe’s suit are without merit.

    “The firm intends to respond to the complaint by showing that the written scope of the firm’s engagement was narrow and did not include the subjects alleged in the complaint, and that the firm did not have a conflict of interest. We know the true facts will come out, and the firm looks forward to its day in court,” the firm statement said.

    The Jane Doe plaintiff retained Lewis Roca in early 2017, the complaint alleged, after years of harassment and sexual abuse by a former teacher at Portsmouth Abbey School, which started in 2012 when she was a 15-year-old sophomore. Following her departure to college in the fall of 2014, she was reportedly able to “gain clarity” on what Michael Bowen Smith had done to her, the complaint said.

    As a result, her parents reported the abuse to the school, who then allowed Smith to resign, the complaint said. The former teacher then began a “relentless pattern of harassment and cyber-stalking behavior” against his former student from 2015-2017, the suit alleges, including tracking her online and sending her “threatening and bizarre” emails.

    The school directed the former student to a consultant who referred her to Lewis Roca, the complaint said, which provided legal services for Doe from February to November of 2017.

    But the law firm failed to inform her about a potential civil case she could bring against the school, the complaint said. Instead, Lewis Roca attorneys told the client she should let them pursue a temporary restraining order against Smith alone, and that her case involved domestic violence.

    “The teacher, Smith, was in his mid to late 40s when he abused plaintiff, who was a teenager,” the lawsuit says. “Smith was her teacher. Plaintiff was at a boarding school, far from her parents’ home. After the abuse ended, the perpetrator continued to cyberstalk plaintiff. And yet, these lawyers deemed this to be a ‘domestic violence’ case, presumably meaning one between two adults who co-habited together or had a similar type of relationship.”

    The firm also failed to inform Doe that they routinely defended the Catholic Church in claims brought by abuse survivors, and had a potential conflict of interest when Portsmouth Abbey paid for plaintiff’s lawyers’ fees, the complaint alleged. 

    Lewis Roca’s religious institutions practice has represented the Catholic Church in numerous cases involving abuse claims for upwards of 20 years, according to the firm’s website.

    Attorneys at Lewis Roca dropped the case in November 2017, after the client turned 21, which meant the Rhode Island statute of limitations now barred her from bringing a civil case against the school, the complaint said.

    Gehlawalt said he and David Ring, who is representing Doe with him, are also bringing a federal lawsuit against the school for failing to protect her from sexual abuse by Smith, and against Smith himself. That case was filed Dec. 1 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

    The Jane Doe plaintiff is also being represented by local counsel Martinez, Hart, Thompson & Sanchez of Albuquerque, New Mexico.


  1. Apuron is gone, but not forgotten.

    1. Apuron might be gone, unfortunately many of his minions are still here in positions of influence. This includes, but is not limited to Adelup's current administration.

    2. Yes. And now that the Adelup lawyer is no longer in the way....