A prosecutor in Mohave County, Ariz., has filed a bar complaint against a lawyer representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The complaint accuses the attorney of practicing in Arizona without a license by telling an LDS bishop he did not need to report child sexual abuse.
The following is an excerpt from the complaint and its exhibits, including slides from a presentation from the Salt Lake City-based law firm of Kirton McConkie on when LDS clergy should report child abuse in Arizona. Also below is a full statement from a Phoenix attorney representing the LDS Church and Kirton McConkie.
Statement from attorney Bill Maledon
Simply put, the Bar complaint filed by Mr. Schoppmann is inaccurate, misleading, and baseless nonsense. His contention that Mr. Osmond and Elder Wickman have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Arizona is, in our view, totally unfounded and legally incorrect. Elder Wickman was not involved in this matter in any capacity.
Mr. Schoppmann has attributed to church officials and attorneys positions that are demonstrably false. For example, he has stated that the church and church officials encourage victims of child abuse and their families not to report such abuse to authorities. And yet, the letter attached to the bar complaint clearly demonstrates that Bishop Gremlich (at the advice of the church’s attorneys) strongly encouraged the family to report the abuse to law enforcement.. Though requirements for reporting may vary by location, the church’s policy is to fully comply with all applicable reporting laws, and even encourages reporting where it may not be required. The goal is to ensure that abuse is halted and the victim is protected, cared for and helped in the healing process.
The assertion that Mr. Osmond and Elder Wickman have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Arizona is, in our view, totally unfounded and legally incorrect.
Another false claim is that Bishop Gremlich asked the victim or [the victim’s] mother to sign letters indicating that they did not want the abuse information to be reported. The bishop has denied this and no such alleged letters have been produced by Mr. Schoppmann or anyone else.
Bishop Gremlich, Mr. Osmond and the other Kirton McConkie attorneys involved in this matter have acted professionally, responsibly, in accordance with all applicable laws, and with sensitivity and respect to the victim.
Whatever Mr. Schoppmann’s motive or agenda may be, his claims are without merit and should not be accorded any deference simply because Mr. Schoppmann chose to pursue his cause using the letterhead of the Mohave County Attorney’s Office.