Civil defense attorney for Oregon churches and religious schools - Kaempf Law Firm

Kaempf Law Firm PC is based in downtown Portland, Oregon, and defends civil litigation in Oregon's state and federal courts, including child abuse claims against individuals.

Kaempf Law Firm PC is based in downtown Portland, Oregon, and defends civil litigation in Oregon's state and federal courts, including child abuse claims against individuals.

JKaempf Law Firm PC defends churches, religious schools, and other religious organizations throughout Oregon.

Kaempf Law Firm PC defends churches, religious schools, and other religious organizations throughout Oregon.

John Kaempf is a civil trial lawyer based in Portland, Oregon who specializes in defending lawsuits against churches and religious schools, including child abuse claims. He also defends individuals sued for alleged child abuse. In his 25 years of practice, he has successfully tried over 20 cases to juries and has won many other cases through pretrial motions.

John is a cum laude 1992 graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School. He is a lifelong Oregonian and is recognized by his peers as one of The "Best Lawyers in America." He has also been honored as an Oregon "Super Lawyer," which recognizes the top 5% of attorneys, every year the award has been given. In addition, he has an AV Peer Review Rating with Martindale-Hubbell, an award that recognizes the highest level of skill and integrity. His firm is one of the “Best Law Firms in Oregon” as selected by U.S. News & World Report.

John is the author and publisher of Religious Law Update, a newsletter that addresses legal developments that affect churches, religious schools, and other religious organizations. A link to the Religious Law Update Blog is above.

Before opening his firm, he worked for more than 15 years at one of Oregon's largest civil defense firms. Thus, John combines big firm experience with the highly responsive approach of a small firm.

Specialty Areas

John Kaempf is a civil trial lawyer based in Portland, Oregon, who specializes in defending lawsuits against churches, religious schools, and other religious entities. This includes the defense of child abuse claims based on the alleged conduct of priests, pastors, and teachers.

John has expertise in First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion defenses to lawsuits against religious entities.

John also specializes in defending child abuse lawsuits against individuals. He has expertise in statute of limitations and other defenses to these often volatile cases. He has defended dozens of these cases in his 25-year career and won many of them in the trial court and on appeal. he recently defended a child abuse case involving over 70 plaintiffs, one of the largest child abuse cases ever in the country. He is one of the few Oregon lawyers who has tried a civil child abuse case to a jury, which was settled during the second week of trial when the plaintiff refused to testify.

Representative Cases

Defending Child Abuse Claims Against Religious Entities and Individuals

The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment John obtained for his clients in the trial court in J.S. v. Franciscan Friars of Oregon, 215 Or. App. 500, 170 P.3d 8 (2007), a Multnomah County case involving the alleged sexual abuse of a child by a Catholic priest. The court upheld the trial court's rulings that the defendants were not vicariously liable for the priest's alleged conduct, and that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s claims because the alleged abuse occurred decades earlier. Thus, John’s clients won the case and avoided the time, expense, stress, and negative publicity associated with a trial.

John obtained the pretrial dismissal of a multi-million dollar child sex abuse action filed in Oregon against a major international church and one of its pastors. The trial court ruled that, even assuming the alleged sexual abuse by the pastor occurred, the case was barred by the statute of limitations. The case is JMS, et al. v. Roberts, et al., Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 0705-05015.

In 2017, John succeeded in getting the plaintiff to drop his multi-million dollar child sex abuse lawsuit without being paid any money after an investigation revealed that his own brothers said the allegations were false. The lawsuit was dismissed after John’s clients made it clear to the plaintiff and his attorney that no money would be paid. The case is David Smith v. Province of The Holy Name, Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 16CV05662.

Defending Churches and Religious Schools

John successfully defended a religious high school in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs, a former student and his parents, sued for readmission to the school and sought money damages after the school expelled the student for misconduct. The trial court granted John’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, holding that it was (1) barred by the First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion clause; (2) the school’s student handbook granted it the sole discretion to decide disciplinary issues that could not be challenged in court; and (3) the claimed damages were speculative and thus not recoverable. This early dismissal allowed the school to avoid the time, stress, expense, risk, and negative publicity associated with a trial.

John won a case for a Christian high school where a religion teacher it fired for living with her boyfriend in violation of its religious doctrine sued the school, seeking reinstatement to her job and money damages. The court dismissed the case because, as John argued, the Free Exercise of Religion clause of the First Amendment prohibits secular courts from second-guessing these types of faith-based employment decisions.