New diocesan in-house counsel has passion for faith, justice

Vicar General for Administration and Chancellor, Fr. Ken Riley, introduces new in-house counsel Patrick R. Miller and his assistant Betsy Sotomayor to a gathering of chancery staff.

By Jack Smith
Catholic Key Editor

Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. has announced his appointment of attorney, Patrick R. Miller, as in-house counsel for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. Vicar General for Administration and Chancellor, Fr. Ken Riley, who oversaw the search for the position said, “Over the past several years, in various conversations and research, Bishop Johnston found that the experience of a growing number of dioceses, in general, achieved a significant cost savings for the diocese by having a salaried position for an in-house counsel instead of outsourcing all civil legal issues.”

Fr. Riley continued that, “Bishop Johnston discerned that it would be a great advantage for him and his leadership team to have an on-site counsel more readily accessible within the chancery building itself to assist in the implementation of his vision and mission for the diocese.”

Miller is a graduate of Rockhurst High School, the University of Kansas and UMKC School of Law. Perhaps most significantly, he is a graduate of St. John LaLande School in his boyhood town of Blue Springs. Growing up, his mom was a Methodist and his dad, a Lutheran. He attended both services. “I don’t know if I was a Lutheran or a Methodist,” Miller said.

Attending John LaLande, Miller was introduced to the Mass and Catholicism and, “It just rubbed off,” he said. “I wanted to go to Mass on Sundays and my family came with me.” In Seventh Grade, largely due to the influence of the school and Miller’s own faith, his whole family made the decision to convert to Catholicism.

At KU, Miller majored in psychology. He later turned to law. When he was young, his family had been sued by a prominent businessman and neighbor in a property dispute. His family prevailed, but it cost them plenty in legal costs. “Seeing what that did to my family made me interested in the law and I wanted to work for the little guy.”

In addition to their property in Blue Springs, the Miller family ran a multi-generational dry-cleaning business on Van Brunt Blvd. “I spent more time there than at home,” he said. Because of that experience, he became very aware “of the challenges people had in the urban core.”

While at UMKC, he volunteered and then interned at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. He was later hired as an investigator and, upon passing the bar, became an attorney for the office. Among his assignments at the Prosecutor’s Office, he served four years in the Sex Crimes Unit, prosecuting child abuse, rape and other sexual crimes. He later served in the newly-created Neighborhood Justice Unit and trained entry level attorneys in the Prosecutor’s Office.

For the last twenty years, Miller has served in private practice in Kansas City. He and his wife and twelve-year-old daughter are active parishioners at Visitation Parish.

As a partner at Dezube Miller, LLC, he litigated dozens of jury trials, hundreds of bench trials in state and federal courts and negotiated settlement of hundreds of lawsuits. Miller also litigated criminal cases and has argued before Kansas and Missouri Court of Appeals, Federal Courts of Appeal and the Kansas Supreme Court. He also supervised and trained junior attorneys and staff.

From 2011, Miller has been a solo practitioner in Kansas City engaged in complex business litigation, personal injury, employment and criminal defense litigation. He also developed experience in telecommunications, immigration and family law practice.

“Pat is well respected by his colleagues and peers for his honesty, integrity, and professionalism,” Fr. Riley said. “He was trusted to train and supervise other attorneys and seems to enjoy legal research and delving into the various questions pertaining to an issue. We are excited to have Pat’s legal acumen at the service of our Bishop as well as the diocesan and parish ministries.”

So why work for the Catholic Church?

“After 20 years, I was ready to do something that was more meaningful,” Miller said. In private practice, “you get the occasional opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and help them pursue justice,” he said. “But most of the time what you’re doing is moving money from one pocket to the next.”

“Working in the Prosecutor’s Office, I always felt good driving home,” he said. “All I had to do was the right thing.”

He feels much the same way about joining the Diocese. “Working for an institution that is all about helping people and changing lives is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m going to get paid to try and make the world a better place. As a lawyer, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

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Thursday
February 22, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph