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 against churches and religious schools throughout Oregon.

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

Kaempf Law Firm PC defends Oregon child abuse lawsuits against individuals and employers.

Oregon Civil Defense Lawyer For Churches & Religious Schools

John Kaempf is a civil defense trial lawyer based in Portland, Oregon who specializes in defending lawsuits against churches and religious schools throughout Oregon. He also defends individuals sued for alleged child abuse in Oregon. 10 years ago, after working at one of Oregon’s largest defense firms for 16 years, he opened his boutique firm in downtown Portland focused on defending religious entities and child abuse claims. John and his team of paralegals give each case specialized attention. They combine big firm experience with the personalized service provided by a small firm. John does not hand off his cases to other lawyers to handle after he is hired, which often increases legal fees and creates inefficiency. He takes the lead in developing and implementing the strategy for each case his firm decides to take. He has defended some of the biggest child abuse cases in the country, including a recent child abuse case against a private school involving over 70 plaintiffs. He specializes in legal defenses to these claims, including the statute of limitations and the lack of vicarious liability, and has had had many of these cases dismissed through pretrial motions. Also, he is one of the few civil defense lawyers in the country who took a child abuse case to trial, which favorably settled after two weeks of trial when the plaintiff refused to testify.

In his 26-year career, John has tried over 20 cases to verdict in Oregon’s state and federal courts. He has also won many lawsuits in Oregon’s trial and appellate courts through summary judgment motions.

Through pretrial motions, John won lawsuits filed against Jesuit High School, Mt. Angel Abbey, the Franciscan Friars, and the Foursquare Church. Therefore, he is on the short list of Oregon civil defense trial attorneys for high exposure “bet the church” cases.

John is a Cum Laude 1992 graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School. Before beginning his career as a trial attorney in 1992, he was a judicial extern for The Honorable Otto R. Skopil Jr. of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.

John is a lifelong Oregonian and is recognized by his peers as one of The "Best Lawyers in America" and one of “America’s Top 100 Attorneys.” He has been honored as an Oregon "Super Lawyer" every year the award has been given. His firm is one of the “Best Law Firms in Oregon” as selected by U.S. News & World Report. He has an AV Peer Review Rating with Martindale-Hubbell, an award that recognizes the highest level of skill and integrity.

He 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.

Professional Recognition

  • Named one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in Civil Litigation Defense from 2011-present
  • Kaempf Law firm PC has been selected as one of “the Best Law Firms in Oregon” by U.S. News & World Report since 2014
  • Selected to "Oregon Super Lawyers" from 2006-present, every year the award has been given, which is granted to only the top 5% of attorneys
  • Awarded AV rating, the highest, by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
  • Given the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by “America's Top 100 Attorneys” in 2018

Specialty Areas

John defends 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, teachers, and volunteers. He also defends child abuse lawsuits against individuals. He has defended dozens of these cases in his 26-year career and won many of them in the trial court and on appeal. He recently defended a child abuse case against a school 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 favorably settled during the second week of trial when the plaintiff refused to testify. He has tried over 20 personal injury cases to a verdict in Oregon’s state and federal courts.

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 (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 lawsuit.
  • John obtained the pretrial dismissal of a multi-million dollar child sex abuse action against a major international church and one of its pastors. The court ruled that the statute of limitations barred the case. The case is JMS v. Roberts, Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 0705-05015 (2007).
  • In 2017, John succeeded in getting the plaintiff to drop his multi-million dollar child sex abuse lawsuit against an order of priests and a church without being paid any money after an investigation revealed that his brothers (and fellow Altar Boys) 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 Smith v. Province of The Holy Name, Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 16CV05662.

Defending Churches and Religious Schools

  • In 2013, 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.
  • John won a case for a Christian high school filed against it by a religion teacher it fired for admittedly having premarital sex in violation of its religious doctrine. The teacher sought instatement to her job and money damages. The court dismissed the case before trial because, as John argued, the Free Exercise of Religion clause of the First Amendment prohibits secular courts from second-guessing faith-based employment decisions.

Defending High Exposure Personal Injury Cases

  • In Stewart v. Kralman, 240 Or App 510 (2011), a personal injury case where the plaintiff was paralyzed while snowmobiling on the defendant’s property, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment John obtained in the trial court based on Oregon’s recreational purposes immunity statutes.
  • In Estate of Ibarra v. Lilly, 245 Or App 294 (2011), a case involving serious personal injuries, John got the Oregon Court of Appeals to reinstate the jury’s verdict not awarding the plaintiff any emotional distress damages. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of a new trial for the plaintiff, and reinstated the “no damages” verdict for the defendant.
  • In Andrews v. R.W. Hays Co., 166 Or App 494 (2000), the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment John obtained in the trial court for the defendant in a premises liability action where the plaintiff was severely injured. The court held that the defendant was not negligent as a matter of law, as John argued.
  • In Walden v. Burger King Corp., Clackamas County Circuit Court case number CCV 0303675 (2003), the jury returned a defense verdict in a case where the plaintiff was critically injured on the defendant’s premises, finding that the defendant was not negligent.
  • In Walters v. Ciffone, Multnomah County Circuit Court case number 980503954 (1998), a premises liability case where the plaintiff was severely injured, the jury reached a defense verdict through finding that the plaintiff’s comparative fault exceeded 50%.
  • In Thompson v. Lupes, case number 99-CV01498-CO (1999), a personal injury negligence action where the plaintiff was critically injured, a District of Oregon federal court jury reached a defense verdict, finding that the defendant was not negligent.
  • In Cook v. Philip Morris Inc., 44 Fed Appx 762 (9th Cir 2002), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment John obtained in the District of Oregon federal trial court based on the statute of limitations in a personal injury case where the plaintiff was blinded after a cigarette lighter exploded.