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Case Study

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Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland Bankruptcy

The Archdiocese of Portland made national headlines when it became the first Archdiocese to seek bankruptcy protection, triggered by several hundred claims for damages stemming from allegations of abuse at the hands of clergy. Tonkon Torp was called on to represent the official committee of tort claimants, representing the interests of those with a claim against the Archdiocese in relation to the abuse.

Complicating matters in this case is the Archdiocese's argument that the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act limit the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court. The Archdiocese is attempting to seek bankruptcy protection from the tort claimants as creditors, while arguing that the court's inquiry into Archdiocese assets is an unconstitutional intrusion into church affairs.

An early constitutional question was resolved when the judge determined that the Archdiocese could not use the bankruptcy law to disenfranchise future claimants. At our request and over the strenuous objections of the Archdiocese and its insurers, the court appointed a representative for the interests of future claimants in the bankruptcy proceedings - a step that sets a national precedent and protects the interests of as-yet unknown victims of abuse.

Many eyes will be on this complex, precedent-setting case as it proceeds. Tonkon Torp is playing a central role in protecting the rights and interests of those who suffered abuse.

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