Lawyers for the Boy Scouts of America are trying to repair possible harm caused by a “inflammatory” email sent to hundreds of men who claim troop leaders sexually assaulted them before a major deadline in the youth organization’s bankruptcy.
During a virtual hearing on Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein in Delaware said that she believes the email sent by lawyers for the official committee representing survivors in the bankruptcy may constitute a “breach of professional ethics.”
The email, sent by plaintiffs’ attorney Tim Kosnoff, asked survivors to vote against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) restructuring plan, which is based on a planned settlement of over 80,000 sex abuse claims. It also included what BSA called assaults on other attorneys in the court and incorrect assertions regarding the strategy.
The communication, according to BSA attorneys, might have “disastrous effects” by confusing survivors and tainting their votes on the proposal, which are due on December 14. The votes are required for the organization to resolve the claims and leave bankruptcy.
They informed Silverstein that they are attempting to correct the problem by contacting survivors who got the email.
BSA, which declared bankruptcy in February 2020 in order to settle the sex abuse cases, has offered a settlement to pay survivors, with $1.887 billion in money now available.
The email, which was issued on November 6, was addressed to almost 12,000 of Kosnoff’s own clients as well as around 7,500 additional survivors who are not his customers. Lawyers for the committee stated on Friday that the organization does not necessarily approve all of the email’s contents, despite the fact that it opposes the proposal and sent the message from its own account.
On Friday, Silverstein was suspicious.
“That’s sort of like the people who say, ‘Oh I didn’t view the whole tweet to see what it says, I just retweeted it,’” she said.
Lawyers for the committee claim that although they intended to send the email to Kosnoff’s clients, they did not plan to send it to the others. Attorneys for the Boy Scouts described the email as a “intentional and illegal effort to solicit votes to reject” the proposal.
Debra Grassgreen of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones, an attorney representing the committee, agreed on Friday that the email was “inflammatory” but not defamatory.
The case is In re Boy Scouts of America, No. 20-10343 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
Prior to this, the Boy Scouts of America had been given preliminary permission to begin seeking votes for its proposed restructuring plan from creditors and individuals who have filed sexual assault claims in the youth organization’s bankruptcy case.
On Thursday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein issued an order approving the so-called disclosure statement, which will be sent to creditors and sex abuse claimants outlining the plan and potential compensation they could receive if it receives enough votes and is eventually approved by the court. Her decision came after many days of hearings and discussions on what information should be included in the statement and how it should be expressed.
The official committee of tort claimants, which represents all abuse victims in the bankruptcy, said in a statement that it continues to reject the idea.
“With the approval of the disclosure statement, survivors themselves finally will have their voice heard by voting on the plan,” Doug Kennedy, vice chair of the tort committee, said in the statement.
The Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, an organization made up of 26 legal firms that claim to represent about 63,00 abuse claimants, accused the tort claimants committee (TCC) of failing to give its own remedy.
“Unlike the Coalition, the TCC has no plan to compensate survivors,” the coalition, which is urging claimants to vote in favor of the deal, said in a statement.
The concept is based on a settlement trust that would provide money to victims of abuse. Payments would be made depending on the severity of the abuse and where it happened, among other things. There is presently a $1.887 billion fund accessible to recompense victims of abuse. According to supporters of the initiative, that figure is projected to rise.