Southern California contingency lawyer John Manly, who has pocketed millions of dollars by suing the Catholic Church, has now admitted that his office has obtained clients for abuse lawsuits by making unsolicited phone calls to Catholic Church parishioners.
This startling new revelation in the Catholic Church abuse narrative was exclusively reported by Sue Nowicki at The Modesto Bee newspaper.
According to Nowicki's piece, numerous individuals in the Diocese of Stockton (Calif.) have said that they received unsolicited phone calls to their homes from a woman hired by Manly. These calls, they claim, left them to conclude that Manly was "fishing" for victims in the case of an accused Catholic priest, Fr. Michael E. Kelly.
Manly has admitted that he hired the woman, but only to "investigate" Kelly.
The obvious question for Manly is this: For what other reason would a Church-suing contingency lawyer "investigate" a Catholic priest except to garner clients?
Confronted with the charge that he was "fishing for victims," Manly, of course, denied the claim.
"We don't call people and ask if they want to be in lawsuits," Manly said in part to Nowicki. "That's not happening; it's not what we do. What we are doing is investigation. 'Did you ever see anything that was odd with Father Kelly?' That's how we got our first client."
So Manly has pretty much admitted that he found his first client against Fr. Kelly by "investigating" areas where the cleric worked. Wow.
The phone calls revealed
Some recipients of the phone calls from Manly's employee say the calls left them "infuriated and disgusted." Nowicki reports:
"[One recipient said] she was given the 'strong impression' that if she said her son, now 32, was interested in filing a lawsuit, 'they would have jumped all over that. They were going to find something (against Kelly), regardless if there was any cause for action.'"
"[Another woman] tried to tell [the caller] that she has known Kelly for three decades and described his positive influence on her sons. 'She told me she has found 10 more victims … She was going on and on and tried to convince me that I was stupid and didn't realize this was going on. I finally had to hang up on her.'"
Are these calls legal?
In her article, Nowicki reveals, "According to the state Bar Association, it is unethical for attorneys to make calls soliciting clients for financial gain." Indeed, it will be interesting to see if the California bar says anything about Manly's actions. (In 2006, by the way, Manly was sanctioned by a judge for "unacceptable" conduct.)
Thomas Beatty, a lawyer who has represented Fr. Kelly, questioned the calls' legality:
"I think it's an inducement into making false claims. I don't think that mass telephoning at every church and every school that (Kelly has) served at to drum up business is a proper way to do things."
Yet another recipient of a phone call sums up how many would feel after such an episode:
"As a teacher, I feel vulnerable. If former students from 20 years ago can be gathered over the phone to make statements against former teachers, we're all at risk, including police officers, doctors, nurses, coaches, etc."
About the accused priest
The target of Manly's ire, Fr. Kelly, has repeatedly and vehemently denied any and all accusations that he ever abused anyone. "The allegations are completely and totally false," Kelly has recently said. "They NEVER happened. Never. They are utterly untrue."
In addition, Kelly passed a polygraph test in 2007 that concluded that he was being truthful when he said that had never abused anyone over his 35 years in the priesthood.
Unfortunately for Fr. Kelly, a civil jury earlier this year decided that Fr. Kelly should be held liable for the abuse of a now-adult male who says he was abused by Kelly in the mid-1980s. The accuser invoked the discredited theory of "repressed memory," and Manly corralled a psychologist from Connecticut to take the stand and testify that the bogus psychological theory was actually true. Shockingly, the jury bought into it.
The Diocese was forced to settle this first case for $3.75 million. Now ever since, not surprisingly, new accusations are popping up.
Kudos to Sue Nowicki at The Modesto Bee for some great work.