Victims of clergy sex abuse and powerful legal firm named to Harrisburg Diocese bankruptcy case
One of five Dauphin County sisters who were sexually abused as children by a priest in the Harrisburg Diocese has been selected as a member of the committee that will oversee the diocese’s federal bankruptcy case.
Lara Fortney-McKeever along with two other survivors of clergy sex abuse have been appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee’s Office to serve on the committee.
The other two survivors are Mark J. Padula Jr., and Patrick Duggan.
The court on Friday also named Rob Kugler as the lead legal counsel to the committee. Kugler, a Minneapolis attorney, has represented sexual abuse survivors in lawsuits against the Catholic Church.
The committee - known as the Official Committee of Tort Claimants - will represent the interests of all other parties and survivors in the case, and will have a saying in critical decisions, including determining what monies and diocesan assets will be tapped to make final determinations on settlement.
As with all bankruptcy cases, the entity that has filed for bankruptcy (the diocese) retains its own legal representation, but does not have influence over the legal representation of the “creditors’ committee.” The creditors — in this case, the victims seeking recompense — are represented by the Kugler firm, in addition to their own attorneys.
The Diocese of Harrisburg is responsible for all legal bills from both sides, and will settle its financial obligations through its assets.
According to 2019 Washington Post article, Kugler charges $680 per hour, and on abuse cases he and his colleagues usually work for a “blended rate” of $450 hourly.
The Harrisburg Diocese last month filed for federal bankruptcy protection in the Middle District of Pennsylvania claiming it needed bankruptcy protections in the face of the growing lawsuits pending from clergy sex abuse cases.
The Harrisburg Diocese last year settled 111 sexual abuse claims through a voluntary victim compensation.
Lara Fortney-McKeever and her sisters in 2018 were among scores of victims who came forth to share their stories in the aftermath of the statewide gran...