The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


No love lost among lawyers in the case

Thinly-veiled barbs underscore struggle to reach settlement

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 8/14/2002

Although the transcripts of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's pretrial testimony contain a healthy number of muddled questions and answers, they also make one thing abundantly clear: The lawyers in the case would rather take it outside.

Through two days of questioning in early June, lawyers for the church, the cardinal, and the alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley frequently stopped Law's deposition to hurl legal barbs and thinly-veiled insults at one another.

The tone was set early when Roderick MacLeish Jr., the lawyer for the families suing Law, attempted to instruct archdiocesan lawyer Wilson Rogers Jr. on the rules of conduct during pretrial testimony.

''If the cardinal doesn't understand my question, he's free to indicate that, and I will rephrase the question so he understands it,'' MacLeish said. He added pointedly, ''I'd urge you to look at the rules and particulary the reporters' notes on conduct during depositions.''

Rogers retorted, ''If I am going to take advice in how to conduct the deposition, you wouldn't be on the list of those I'd come to.''

Then MacLeish and Rogers argued about who started the argument. ''That's an unnecessary ad hominem attack, Mr. Rogers,'' MacLeish said.

''In response to your unnecessary ad hominem,'' Rogers replied.

At which point J. Owen Todd, Law's personal attorney, weighed in to inform MacLeish that he and Rogers would interrupt him ad nauseam if they felt it necessary to preserve Law's rights.

''We're not sitting here as potted plants,'' Todd said dryly, noting that he was borrowing a phrase from another lawyer. ''When we believe that your questions are repetitive, harassing, and abusing the process, it is our duty to intercede and to protect our client from that.''

And interrupt they did.

When MacLeish responded to Law with an aside about MacLeish's unsuccessful efforts to obtain all the church records he requested, Todd was quick to intercede.

Todd: I object to the remarks.

MacLeish: That's fine.

Todd: Just ask questions.

MacLeish: I appreciate it, Mr. Todd.

More than once, the verbal brickbats tossed by MacLeish and Todd threatened to push Law into the background of the proceedings.

Todd: Now, don't interrupt me, Mr. MacLeish.

MacLeish: You tell me when you're finished, Mr. Todd.

Todd: You'll know when I'm finished, Mr. MacLeish. I'll let you know specifically.

MacLeish: Go ahead. Continue with your speech.

Todd: My response to your speech.

Later in the day, MacLeish tried to fend off one of Todd's numerous objections and found himself being schooled in the rules of conduct.

MacLeish: Your objection is noted.

Todd: No. This is more than an objection.

MacLeish: Are you instructing [Law] not to answer the question?

Todd: No. I'm instructing you.

MacLeish: You're not instructing me anymore, Mr. Todd.

Yesterday, when the lawyers emerged on a hot downtown sidewalk after Law's continued pretrial testimony, their banter was exhibit A in the breakdown of settlement talks that forced Law to resume his deposition.

While Todd insisted that an out-of-court settlement was still possible, MacLeish, naturally, disagreed. ''We are going forward to trial,'' he said.

Stephen Kurkjian of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at

This story ran on page A29 of the Boston Globe on 8/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing LLC.

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