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By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 28, 2005

The law firm of Greenberg Traurig represented more than 250 persons who claimed sexual abuse at the hands of Massachusetts clergy. Here's a typical clip from a 2004 story:

[Greenberg Traurig attorney Roderick] MacLeish said he will seek full disclosure of all diocesan records regarding [Springfield Bishop Thomas] Dupre and the allegation. He will contact diocesan lawyers to request that all records be preserved.

"The best antiseptic to the type of cover-up that existed in the Springfield Diocese is disclosure, the truth. To that end, we're looking for acknowledgment to the veracity of the allegations made to Bishop Dupre," MacLeish said.

And here's another from 2003:

Roderick MacLeish Jr., Greenberg Traurig's chief counsel on the clergy abuse cases, said after reviewing the file that the church's handling of McDonald's case 'shows again a lack of common decency in dealing with a victim.'

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on any of the information contained in McDonald's files.

How many scores of times did we read the same story with minor variations?: a sordid accusation, a Greenberg Traurig attorney waving a damning document from the diocesan files, a stonewall response from the chancery flak.

Shifting to the present, it's Greenberg Traurig's turn in the hot seat. GT attorney and lobbyist Jack Abramoff is under investigation for a deal whereby he allegedly tried to persuade Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Stephen Griles to block approval of a Michigan gambling casino that would compete with a casino operated by one of Greenberg Traurig's clients. The alleged sweetener was that Greenberg Traurig offered Griles a job with the firm. That, of course, smells like a classic conflict-of-interest, and has attracted the attention of the Justice Department's fraud and public corruption unit. Now the cat's got GT's tongue.

Griles, who left the Interior Department earlier this year to form a consulting firm, "said he never had anything to do with the Gun Lake casino issues," a spokeswoman at his company said. He did not comment on any job discussions with Abramoff. A spokesman for Abramoff also declined to comment. Greenberg Traurig, citing the ongoing investigation, had no comment on possible job talks with department officials.

Will the GT attorneys who were portrayed as heroic vindicators of abstract justice during the Boston sex abuse crisis step forward to issue a public call for openness and full disclosure of the pertinent files of their own law firm? Don't bet on it. The point is not to disparage the victims' attorneys, nor to exculpate the dioceses, nor yet to imply that the law firm's dishonesty (if dishonesty there be) is on the same moral level as the bishops' failure. But it seems institutions have a reflexive "antibiotic reaction" to external probes, and the defensive reflex almost always involves a clampdown on information flow. That means it's up to honorable individuals who make up the institution to detach themselves from the amoral collective reflex and tell the truth-- even when it's costly to friendships, careers, and, sometimes, one's own liberty.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2005 8:34 AM ET USA

    Although you claim it's not your point to denigrate MacLeish, equate the bishops' conduct with the alleged conduct of a lawyer who is not MacLeish, you do precisely that. Without the efforts of lawyers, whatever their motivation, even the abortive move to cleanse the priesthood would not have occurred. The point is exactly what you deny: lawyers and law firms are held to ethical and legal standards far more exacting than those ever faced by bishops, as are the consequences. Strike Two, Di.

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