Justices won't hear conspiracy case
By Adam Parker (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Saturday, March 21, 2009



The S.C. Supreme Court has denied a request from a Greenville attorney to bypass the normal appeals process and hear a case about allegations of conspiracy and collusion in a class-action settlement between the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse, according to an order released Thursday.

David Flowers' petition for "original jurisdiction" was an unusual move the attorney hoped would expedite the court review process. The case is likely to reach the high court sooner or later, he said.

"We'll just file in circuit court, probably next week," Flowers said.

The complaint, filed in December by Greenville lawyer J. David Flowers, alleges negligence and breach of fiduciary duty by class counsel; civil conspiracy by class counsel, the diocese and Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein; and "outrage against all Defendants."

It alleges that the $2.5 million fee awarded to Larry Richter and David Haller, the two attorneys who represented the class of victims, was excessive and based on sloppy or fabricated records of hours worked.

Richter and Haller, the two attorneys who represented the class of victims, strongly denied the allegations. In an e-mail, Goodstein said she could not comment on the case.

"Any allegations of collusion with class counsel are ridiculous and unfounded and without any merit whatsoever," said diocese attorney Peter Shahid in a statement.

In the Supreme Court order, the five justices expressed concern over delays in addressing two issues that remain unresolved: whether Charleston attorney Gregg Meyers, who represents a group of victims in a separate settlement, should be sanctioned and whether the diocese owes interest on $1.38 million paid to Meyers' clients.

"We hereby direct that the underlying matters be concluded within six months of the date of this order," they wrote.

The diocese paid more than $10 million to settle the 2007 class-action suit and reiterated its concern for victims in a statement issued Friday.

"The Diocese of Charleston is adamant that the abuse of children, including physical injury, sexual molestation, sexual exploitation, or grave emotional damage, will not be tolerated by anyone, especially Church personnel."

Flowers said the Supreme Court's decision won't stop him from seeking justice.

"It's not a shock; it's disappointing," he said. "We'll push on."

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902 or aparker@postandcourier.com.