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Name and title: Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel Age: 38 Company profile: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is the voice of the roughly 275 Roman Catholic bishops in the United States. It employs 350 laypeople, priests, deacons and members of religious orders. Conference headquarters is in northeast Washington, in an area known as “Little Rome” centering around The Catholic University of America. A small Office of Film and Broadcasting is located in New York and a branch office of Migration and Refugee Services is in Miami. The organization’s purpose, according to its mission statement, is to “unify, coordinate, encourage, promote and carry on Catholic activities in the United States; to organize and conduct religious, charitable and social welfare work at home and abroad; to aid in education; to care for immigrants; and generally to enter into and promote by education, publication and direction the objects of its being.” The conference’s roots lie in the National Catholic War Counsel, organized by the American bishops in 1917 to provide spiritual care and recreational opportunities for American service members during World War I. Legal team and outside counsel: Picarello oversees five attorneys and three nonlegal staff. “Each attorney covers a range of issues, but each has a special focus: immigration, taxation and nonprofits, intellectual property and communications, labor and employment, and litigation. I’ve got a finger in every pie, but I also focus on religious freedom issues,” he said. “It’s great to participate in the work of the church so directly. As a layperson, it’s an honor to be able to serve the bishops and apply the skills I’ve acquired as a lawyer to that purpose. I like being an adviser and offering both a legal and prudential aspect.” Picarello turns to Richmond, Va.-based Hunton & Williams for help with employment matters. Washington firms Williams & Connolly and Steptoe & Johnson LLP help with appellate and with pension and benefits work, respectively. Daily duties: The team handles the contract, employment and other internal legal issues common to an organization of its size, “except that there’s a religious freedom overlay throughout. We also typically defend ourselves in litigation when we’ve been sued.” The office runs the National Diocesan Attorneys Association, helping to coordinate the attorneys who serve the more than 170 Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States, each with one or more diocesan attorneys appointed by the local bishop. These attorneys handle the bulk of the work of the church, with the conference’s legal team supporting, coordinating and advising them. The office “articulates a Catholic vision of the law in the broader legal community, mostly through amicus briefs in civil courts, often in coalition with other religious groups, but also through legal scholarship,” Picarello said. “We file almost exclusively in the U.S. Supreme Court, but sometimes also in lower appellate courts. The range of issues more or less tracks the policy areas, emphasizing foundational issues such as the defense of human life and religious freedom. The touchstone principle throughout is the inherent dignity of the human person.” The law office is heavily involved in Pope Benedict XVI’s plans to visit the United States in April. “Because security is a principal concern, the [U.S.] Secret Service manages most of what happens, so we interface with them,” Picarello said. “Then there are the contractual issues associated with licensing the official logo. We want to maintain some measure of control over how the official logo is used, lest it end up on some tacky or otherwise undesirable tchotchke. We dread the return of pope ‘soap on a rope.’ You can also imagine the wide range of communications issues that might arise, with so much broadcast and other media involved.” Picarello reports to Monsignor David J. Malloy, the conference’s general secretary. Crisis: The conference has been going through downsizing in recent years, forced in part by monetary damages paid to victims of clergy sex abuse. Although no one on the conference’s staff has been accused of any crime, the organization has found itself named as a plaintiff on occasion. “These are meritless and never get past the motion to dismiss stage, but unfortunately that hasn’t stopped plaintiffs from filing them,” Picarello said. “More importantly in this area, the conference has been in the forefront of proposing diocesan systems and structures designed to minimize the incidence of sexual abuse in the future, and to optimize the church’s response when it does happen,” he continued. “As Catholics, we recognize that we live in a broken world. You can’t achieve 100% prevention, especially when you’re dealing with crime like sex abuse, which happens out of sight. So in addition to doing the best we can to create a safe environment for children in the care of the church, we also make provision for a healing response when prevention fails.” Route to present position: Picarello earned a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology and comparative religion from Harvard University in 1991, a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1992, and a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995. He clerked for Chief Judge Gene Carter of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. His next legal job was as an employment and environmental litigator for Covington & Burling of Washington, between October 1996 and May 2000. He then spent seven years as a litigator with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “a small nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression of all religions.” Picarello heard through local Catholic circles that veteran conference General Counsel Mark Chopko was leaving and applied to replace him. He got the job and started work in September 2007. Personal: When he’s not in the office, Picarello, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., often can be found out in the yard of the home he shares with his wife, Martha, in Arlington, Va. “I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug. It’s comical for a citified guy like me: I’m weeding beds, mowing the lawn, trimming the shrubs, planting flowers. Gardening is therapeutic and a good metaphor for many things in life. We have a dog now, too, which completes the urban-to-suburban transformation.” Last book and movie: I Am America (And So Can You!), by Stephen Colbert (via books on tape), and Charlie Wilson’s War.

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