Boy Scout abuse claims fund shouldn’t pay $21 million in lawyers’ fees, judge says

Dec 6, 2023, 3:31 PM

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The judge presiding over the Boys Scouts of America’s bankruptcy has rejected a $21 million fee request from attorneys hired by law firms representing survivors of child sexual abuse.

A group of personal injury firms called the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice wanted to have its legal fees and expenses paid by the Boy Scouts and by the trust fund established to compensate men who were abused as children by Boy Scout leaders and volunteers.

Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein denied the fee request Tuesday, having earlier expressed concern that any payment to attorneys representing coalition law firms would come from the pockets of abuse claimants.

Law firms are expected to take roughly 40% of any payments to clients from the $2.4 billion trust fund established for abuse survivors. Nevertheless, coalition attorneys argued that Silverstein should grant their “relatively modest” fee request because of the “extraordinary contribution” they made in developing a Boy Scouts’ reorganization plan.

The coalition played a dominant role in the bankruptcy, despite the existence of an official victims committee representing more than 80,000 abuse claimants. Coalition law firms represent some 18,000 claimants and are affiliated with more than two dozen law firms that collectively represent more than 60,000 claimants. Plan opponents have suggested that the huge number of claims was the result of a nationwide marketing effort by personal injury lawyers working with for-profit claims aggregators to drum up clients.

While noting that the coalition played a major role in the case, Silverstein said the group “does not meet any standard for reimbursement of fees.”

“More fundamentally, however, the coalition’s contribution did not transcend its self-interest,” the judge wrote. Some services it rendered duplicated those of the official victims committee, while others were done for the benefit of the law firms, not the abuse survivors, she noted.

The judge also said the fee reimbursement request “runs counter to the coalition’s representations to the court, and more importantly, to its members.”

In a 2020 court filing, coalition attorneys wrote — in boldface letters — that they were being paid by the law firms that formed the group, and that abuse survivors “will not, in any way, be responsible for the fees of coalition counsel.” Silverstein noted Tuesday that if the fee request were granted, abuse survivors would, in fact, be paying part of the fee.

A spokeswoman for the coalition issued a statement saying the group will appeal Silverstein’s ruling.

“Without coalition leadership and its efforts to secure consensus, the plan would not have been confirmed and put into practice,” the statement reads.

Doug Kennedy, an abuse survivor and co-chair of the official victims committee, said he was gratified by Silverstein’s decision. “Her ruling will now make it possible for more money to be put in the trust that is helping survivors,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Boy Scouts said the organization, which did not file any response to the coalition’s fee request, had no comment.

Silverstein’s ruling reinforced the concerns she first expressed in 2021, when she refused to allow the Boy Scouts to pay millions of dollars to coalition attorneys. At hearing earlier this year, she questioned whether the fee request was simply a “surcharge” on abuse victims.

The BSA’s reorganization plan took effect in April, despite ongoing appeals by opponents. It allows the Texas-based Boy Scouts to keep operating while compensating tens of thousands of men who say they were sexually abused as children.

Plan opponents have argued, among other things, that non-debtors, including local Boy Scout councils, troop sponsoring organizations and insurers, should not be allowed to escape further liability for child sexual abuse by contributing to the settlement trust. Survivors who oppose the plan say allowing those third parties to escape liability without their consent violates their due process rights.

National News

FILE - In this image provided by KFOR-TV, a heavily damaged vehicle is seen off a road in Tishoming...

Associated Press

After crash that killed 6 teens, NTSB chief says people underestimate marijuana’s impact on drivers

DETROIT (AP) — A horrific crash that killed six high school girls in Oklahoma two years ago has the head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board urging parents to warn teenagers about the risk of driving after using marijuana. Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy made the appeal to parents Thursday as her agency released the final […]

6 minutes ago

FILE - Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, speaks as President Joe ...

Associated Press

US agency says apps that let workers access paychecks before payday are providing loans

NEW YORK (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Thursday that apps that allow workers to access their paychecks in advance, often for a fee, are providing loans and therefore subject to the Truth in Lending Act. If enacted, the proposed rule would provide clarity to a fast-growing industry known as Earned Wage Access, […]

2 hours ago

Botanist Florencia Peredo Ovalle works in her greenhouse in Gardnerville, Nevada, Tuesday, May 21, ...

Associated Press

Green agendas clash in Nevada as company grows rare plant to help it survive effects of a mine

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — A botanist gently strokes the pollen of endangered wildflowers with a paintbrush as she tries to reenact nature inside a small greenhouse in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada. It’s part of a lithium mining company’s grand experiment intended to help keep an extremely rare desert plant from going extinct in […]

2 hours ago

Sergio Solano, an immigrant from Mexico, gets ready for his next delivery, June 21, 2024, in New Yo...

Associated Press

Newly arrived migrants encounter hazards of food delivery on the streets of NYC: robbers

NEW YORK CITY (AP) — Brad Song thought he was about to get his e-bike stolen a second time in a less than a month after delivering an order for Chinese food app Fantuan Delivery. Seven strangers surrounded the Chinese immigrant and knocked him off the scooter. He was rescued when a nearby motorist revved […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Illinois sheriff’s deputy charged with murder in fatal shooting of woman who called 911

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois sheriff’s deputy has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a woman insider her home. Sonya Massey was killed after Sangamon County deputies responded to her 911 call early on July 6, State’s Attorney John Milhiser said. A statement from Milhiser doesn’t describe the circumstances that preceded […]

3 hours ago

FILE - This undated file photo shows members of the Grateful Dead band, from left to right, Mickey ...

Associated Press

The Grateful Dead and Francis Ford Coppola are among the newest Kennedy Center Honors recipients

WASHINGTON (AP) — An iconoclastic filmmaking legend and one of the world’s most enduring musical acts headline this year’s crop of Kennedy Center Honors recipients. Director Francis Ford Coppola and the Grateful Dead will be honored for lifetime achievement in the arts, along with jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, blues legend Bonnie Raitt and the legendary […]

3 hours ago

Boy Scout abuse claims fund shouldn’t pay $21 million in lawyers’ fees, judge says