By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BURLINGTON - The Covington Diocese asked Kentucky's chief justice on Thursday to remove the judge in the nation's first class-action lawsuit over claims of sexual misconduct by priests.
The diocese wants Boone Circuit Judge Jay Bamberger removed from the case because, it says, one of the judge's best friends, Mark Modlin, has been hired as a trial consultant by plaintiffs' attorneys.
For his part, Bamberger may hold two diocesan attorneys in contempt of court and could throw one off the case.
Professional decorum between diocesan attorneys and the judge has deteriorated since Bamberger denied the church's request to remove himself from the case on Nov. 13. Bamberger has characterized attempts at removing him as "forum shopping."
Legal observers who have monitored sex-abuse claims against the church nationwide call Bamberger's decision to grant class-action status "unprecedented." And diocesan attorneys have said the diocese's ability to carry out its mission could hinge on the outcome of the class-action case.
In a one-inch thick affidavit, Diocesan attorneys Mark Guilfoyle of Crestview Hills and Carrie Huff of Chicago outlined their case to remove Bamberger.
Guilfoyle wrote that Modlin and Bamberger were golfing together in the late 1980s when Modlin was critically injured in a golf-cart wreck. Guilfoyle said that Bamberger organized 60 lawyers to take care of Modlin while he was incapacitated.
Guilfoyle and Huff have attempted in both Kentucky and Ohio to get Bamberger's and Modlin's phone records. The two wrote in their brief that they wanted to show Bamberger talks to Modlin in the hours before and after important rulings in the class-action case.
Bamberger quashed the subpoenas for phone records on Tuesday.
Bamberger ordered Guilfoyle and Huff to return the subpoenaed records, destroy any notes taken from them and file an affidavit in the court saying that had been done.
The judge also ordered the attorneys to appear before him Dec. 4 to answer why they shouldn't be held in contempt of court and why he shouldn't revoke his permission to allow Huff to participate in the case even through she is not licensed in Kentucky.
Chief Justice Joseph Lambert was asked to disqualify Bamberger and appoint a special judge to oversee the class action.
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