There’s an old saying, “Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.” And so it is in the DioMass Title IV case involving Douglas Anderson, suspended rector of the Church of the Advent in Boston. He is accused of sexual misconduct while serving as rector of St. James, a Texarkana parish, and lying about his conduct.
And now, Rehill is looking for ways to out the victim and publicly identify her, despite the efforts of the Title IV disciplinary Hearing Panel to protect her identity.
Even worse, Rehill inexplicably asked to have his correspondence on this matter published. More on that in a moment, but for now, just keep in mind the word “dirtbag.”
To be clear, it’s a sad state of affairs when we find ourselves on the same side of an issue as corrupt bishop Alan Gates. But Anglican Watch wholeheartedly endorses the recent decision of the Title IV hearing panel to ban reference to the victim during hearings. And we give a double thumbs up to excoriating respondent’s counsel, Michael Rehill, both for his spurious arguments about redaction and his silly complaints about how he allegedly was mistreated by the hearing panel. Specifically, it looks very much like Rehill is trying to intimidate the female complainant — a tactic straight out of Madmen. And for that, being excoriated is not only appropriate; it may not go far enough.
For starters, Rehill is a retired municipal court judge. He knows or has reason to know the importance of protecting victims when allegations of sexual misconduct arise. And he well understands the trauma that arises in these cases. Thus, Rehill’s efforts to bring the victim’s name into the record begs the question, “Why?” And knowing Rehill, we conclude his efforts are aimed at bullying and intimidating the victim.
Rehill also appears to be forgetting some of the most basic tenets of legal advocacy. These tenets include:
- The importance of making sure your arguments pass the laugh test. In other words, if you run the risk that people will burst into laughter when they hear your arguments, you’d better not go down that path. That applies to Rehill’s frivolous and dilatory arguments about referencing the complainant in oral arguments. Even this publication, which tends towards disclosure, is unwilling to name the complainant if for no other reason than the possibility that her name will come up when people Google her in the future. She’s entitled to dignity, and that shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion.
- The need to fall back when the enemy is storming the ramparts. Or as one law professor, a former JAG, used to say, “If you’re sure of your fortifications, man the ramparts, fire back. But if the enemy is coming over the walls, retreat. Find a safer place.” And in this case, Rehill’s ramparts are crumbling beneath him, he’s undercutting his client’s position, and he’s making himself look like an ass. Time to back up and take a more ethical and tactically sensible approach.
As for his request to place the correspondence on the web, we don’t know what Rehill was thinking. We’re not sure we want to know. But the hearing panel granted his wish, so we are republishing Rehill’s frivolous pleadings for all the world to see. Hopefully women who read this will let Alan Gates know that bullying female victims of misconduct is unacceptable. (His email is ag****@di*****.org.)
And for the record, we understand that attorneys must follow the wishes of their clients. And we get representing clients who are interpersonally or ethically ugly. But Rehill is skating dangerously close to sanctions from the hearing panel, and he is doing his client no favors. And he’s doing his professional reputation no favors.
Specifically, there is no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination regarding Title IV under Canon IV.3.1(b). Indeed, failing to cooperate with a proceeding is an offense. And given that his client allegedly lied during prior proceedings, Rehill is not helping anyone with his silly, dilatory games.
That includes denying that the conduct in question occurred. We don’t think there is anyone out there who finds the denials convincing, and at some point this line of argument serves only to further inflame the situation and show that Anderson has no remorse for his conduct. But then, given allegations that Anderson is the narcissist from hell, that would be expected.
Indeed, at this point, we see no path to acquittal for his client. So rather than irritating the hearing panel, Rehill would be well-advised to play nice and negotiate the best possible accord for his client. Because, at this point, Anderson will be defrocked unless he — and attorney Rehill — change their tune.
And given the sexual misconduct involved, it will be an uphill battle for Anderson to find a job, either in a church or a for-profit organization.
After all, what if someone Googles “Douglas Anderson, Episcopal priest”?
Hearing Panel Decision on Redaction
Letter from Michael Rehill to hearing panel
Hearing panel response to Michael Rehill
Response of church attorney