Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Lawyer asks out of church lawsuit

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - The Northern Kentucky attorney who represents the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against the Covington Diocese wants out.

Barbara Bonar of Covington filed a motion in Boone Circuit Court on Friday to withdraw as counsel from what is the first class-action suit against the Roman Catholic Church. Her move comes a month after one of her clients announced he was among 32 people who have reached out-of-court settlements with the diocese totaling more than $6 million.

The client, known in court by the pseudonym "Carl Coe," has said he decided to settle because he felt the class action wasn't the best way to handle sex-abuse claims against the church. A proposed amended suit has been filed to remove Carl Coe as the lead plaintiff.

Bonar said in her request that she wanted to withdraw because of a conflict of interest. In an interview, however, Bonar said she is concerned about how two other lawyers in the case have characterized Carl Coe.

Cincinnati class-action attorneys Stan Chesley and Bob Steinberg wrote in the proposed amended suit that Carl Coe was "no longer an adequate class representative."

"That's a public ridicule of a client," Bonar said. "It leaves the impression he has been a bad boy so (Steinberg and Chesley) are kicking him out." Bonar said the legal document should have said it was her client's decision to opt out of the class action.

"I'm not attacking him for what he did," Steinberg said of Coe. "There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to stay out of a class."

The man called "Coe" says he wants people to know he "didn't sell out the class."

"I want (the other class members) to know I wasn't concerned just about me," he said. "It just came to a point that the class wasn't for me. I thought I was going to be able to handle it to the end, but I didn't."


E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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