BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) - Attorneys at Belleville-based Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale "violated every relevant ethical duty and breached virtually every rule in the Rules of Professional Conduct" in getting a former partner to file a lawsuit against the Polish Roman Catholic St. Stanislaus Corp., the church claims in St. Clair County Court.
The church claims "that Greensfelder attorneys encouraged, induced, and incited Roger Krasnicki, the former attorney to St. Stanislaus, to violate his fiduciary duties and ethical obligations to his former client to the damage of St. Stanislaus in the millions of dollars," the complaint states.
St. Stanislaus has had a long-running property dispute with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
St. Stanislaus, based in St. Louis, claims Greensfelder, who represented the Archdiocese, planted a spy to give it confidential information.
"Greensfelder, along with Krasnicki, has violated every relevant ethical duty and breached virtually every rule in the Rules of Professional Conduct," the complaint states.
"Greensfelder stole St. Stanislaus' privilege. Greensfelder took advantage of St. Stanislaus by manipulating its former attorney, Krasnicki, to work with them in fomenting, preparing, and ultimately prosecuting a lawsuit against his own former client, a lawsuit which alleges that Krasnicki's work for St. Stanislaus was illegal and invalid. Greensfelder orchestrated the once-secret use of St. Stanislaus' own secretary as a mole - the 'Greensfelder spy' - who worked behind the scenes at St. Stanislaus, listening in on conversations between the parish's board and its attorneys, and passing along what she heard to Greensfelder for use against St. Stanislaus in litigation, and Greensfelder simultaneously arranged for Greensfelder's client, the Archdiocese, to provide a supposed 'part time job' to the spy to compensate her for her covert espionage on their behalf."
St. Stanislaus claims the defendant law office never would have "had the legal theory" to bring its lawsuit without the information it gained from "the spy."
The church says Greensfelder knew its behavior was unethical and tried to cover it up.
"All the while, Greensfelder knew that St. Stanislaus was Krasnicki's former client, knew that its activities were unethical and violated St. Stanislaus' interests and rights, and knew that it was intentionally causing significant damage to St. Stanislaus," the complaint states.
It adds "that when Greensfelder was discovered and openly confronted about their behavior, Greensfelder attorneys made misrepresentations about their relationship to the attorneys for St. Stanislaus and to the court in the church lawsuit. Greensfelder attorney Mary Ann Wymore claimed that Greensfelder had no relationship with Krasnicki (it was later discovered that Wymore herself had drafted and signed a co-counsel agreement which was designed to hide the very relationship she unequivocally denied), that Greensfelder attorneys had never exchanged emails with Krasnicki (Greensfelder was later required by court to produce over 250 emails with Krasnicki, including emails between Wymore and Krasnicki), and that Greensfelder had never received documents from Krasnicki (it came out later that Krasnicki had provided his entire file of documents from St. Stanislaus to Greensfelder, as memorialized in a letter signed by Wymore herself). Wymore and Greensfelder attorney Abby Risner, a member of the Illinois Bar, insisted to St. Stanislaus attorneys and to the court in the church lawsuit that Greensfelder had never received assistance from Krasnicki in depositions or discovery, but internal emails between Wymore, Risner, and Krasnicki now reveal that Krasnicki was intimately involved in the discovery and his advice was sought every step of the way by both Wymore and Risner." (Parentheses in complaint.)
St. Stanislaus claims Krasnicki violated attorney-client privilege by turning over St. Stanislaus' confidential information to Greensfelder and by acting as co-counselor in the lawsuit.
"(T)wo days after the church lawsuit was filed, Roger Krasnicki and Greensfelder entered a 'Confidential Joint Litigation Agreement' in an apparent attempt to ensure their relationship would remain a secret," the complaint states. "Responding to Krasnicki's concerns about his ethical and professional obligation under the ethical rules, the Greensfelder team determined that a Confidential Joint Litigation Agreement would best cover up the significant role St. Stanislaus' former lawyer played in initiating, planning, strategizing, and helping to prosecute the church lawsuit."
St. Stanislaus seeks punitive damages for aiding and abetting and breach of fiduciary duties and ethical obligations. It is represented by Thomas Keefe.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.