Lawyers Offer To Represent City for Free In Logo Dispute

Lawyer James Bordas Jr. offered to represent the city of Steubenville pro-bono in a potential lawsuit from a Wisconsin foundation seeking the removal of a religious symbol from the city logo.

City officials agreed last month to alter the logo after the Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc., of Madison, Wis., threatened legal action over the logo’s inclusion of the cross and silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus.

Steubenville Law Director S. Gary Repella during a city council meeting acknowledged that trying the case could come at a significant financial cost for taxpayers.

“We thought the city was being bullied, perhaps because of lack of funds, into caving to the unlawful demands of an extremist group,” Bordas said Wednesday.

Bordas’ firm operates out of Wheeling, but also has offices in Ohio. He said it employs 13 lawyers and a legal support staff of 17 and is one of the largest plaintiff’s litigation firms in West Virginia. The firm has the money, time and resources to dedicate to the case, he added.

Bordas said he expects the case would cost $10,000 to $15,00 in litigation fees, and possibly thousands of hours of work from legal staff. He also predicted national attention from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s a very difficult case,” Bordas said. “The ACLU is serious about fighting this thing. They’d bring in lawyers from across the country to fight it. It’s going to be a tough case … and may go to the Supreme Court. If it does, so be it. We’re willing to do it.”

Bordas contended the cross and chapel represent the university as a Steubenville landmark, and are not an endorsement of a particular religion. Separation of church and state prevents any “state-supported church,” he continued, noting America’s founders aimed to secure the right to choose any religion or none at all.

“I don’t know why (city officials) wouldn’t want to (uphold the unchanged logo in court) when Franciscan University is such a very important part of that community and … a big part of Catholic tradition in this country,” Bordas said.

City officials have proposed including another university building, such as the library, on a new logo. Bordas, who is Catholic, said he would argue for the inclusion of any religious symbol on a community logo if that symbol represents a major landmark.

Steubenville Mayor Dominic Mucci and City Manager Cathy Davison did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday. However, a worker in the mayor’s office said city officials plan to meet sometime to talk about Bordas’ proposition.