Lead Attorney for Plaintiffs Disqualified from Bill Gothard Sex Abuse Case

CC image courtesy of Flickr, slgckgc.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On May 20, the judge in the court case Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles disqualified David C. Gibbs III from representing his clients.

Attorneys for Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) filed motions in February with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. These motions were to disqualify Gibbs III from the court case Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP over sexual abuse.

The motions featured two exhibits: sworn affidavits and documents that Gothard and IBLP believe show that Gibbs personally violated the Illinois Rules for Professional Conduct in his interactions with Gothard. Gibbs issued a statement in response to these motions on February 20. Gibbs alleged that, “Gothard was fully aware that I was the attorney for Lourdes Torres against Gothard’s protégé, Douglas Phillips, and Gothard was mentioned by name in that Texas lawsuit in April 2014.” While Gibbs admitted he is “guilty of aggressively representing my clients,” he denounced the motions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”

On Tuesday, May 3, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy held a hearing on the motion to disqualify. During the hearing, IBLP’s attorneys condemned Gibbs for allegedly mishandling the case. Gibbs, in turn, argued that his involvement with Gothard was strictly on behalf of his plaintiffs. While Gibbs admitted that his goal was to get Gothard reinstated on the IBLP board, he claimed this was in order to better aid his clients.

HA obtained the official court transcripts of the hearing. You can view the transcripts here.

Three days ago on May 20, Judge Popejoy ruled in favor of the motion to disqualify. In the ruling, the judge stated that,

Attorney Gibbs had intimate, professional and personal interactions with all of the parties to this case at various times within the calendar year of 2015! He discussed issues of dispute between defendants IBLP and Gothard and prepared bullet points on behalf of one of the trustees for IBLP as it pertained to Gothard. He met with Gothard and had various communications with Gothard in May 2015 and thereafter. In November 2015, he prepared an affidavit for Gothard to sign and clearly obtained information from that affidavit directly from Gothard. He also clearly knew that Mr. Gothard’s interest were in conflict with those of his individual clients as is referenced by the allegations against Gothard, although not a party in the original complaint filed in October 2015. Then, after preparing and forwarding that affidavit to Gothard, attorney Gibbs obviously knew that Gothard was going to be an additional defendant in an amended complaint filed in January 2016. Whether the actions of attorney Gibbs are “strict” ethical violations of the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility or not, there is clearly a clouded, convoluted and inappropriate set of interactions that attorney Gibbs had among the entire set of circumstances and parties pertaining to the litigation now pending before this Court. Therefore, it is completely and utterly inappropriate for attorney Gibbs to continue as legal counsel for the plaintiffs.

You can read Judge Popejoy’s full decision here.


  • I feel for the plaintiffs who I’m sure have to have so many thoughts going through their heads but I am thrilled this man is being exposed for the fraud that he is. Finally the plaintiffs will be able to get good representation.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Is IBLP already prepping for their Caesar’s return in Triumph?

    • I’ve always thought it was no accident that Gothards old travel BFF, Levendusky was made the new President of IBLP.

  • Does anybody know if this destroys the case for the plaintiffs? I’d worried about conflict of interest since Gibbs was announced as their attorney. I hope they can just pick up and continue with a new lawyer. Gibbs ought to be brought up before the bar for this. He had to know it was unethical.

    • And can the plaintiffs now sue Gibbs for false representation of his qualifications to represent them?

    • The judge makes clear in the ruling that they can still continue the case.

    • There is risk to the case because the judge explicitly says some of the allegations were framed with illegally obtained information. A new lawyer may have to start form scrap and not read Gibbs’s notes, ignore the illegal affidavit and the witnesses may have to prove that their own recollections have not been affected by the violations of confidences. Oliver North could not be convicted for misappropriating federal property because ALL the witnesses were tainted by hearing televised Congressional testimony that was “immunized” (could not be used against North). It will not be easy to unscramble the case from the Gibbs abuses. The judge will allow it, but it will be necessary to unscramble it.

  • Gretchen Wilkinson

    We are all feeling upside-down. So many emotions. Please keep us in your thoughts as we try to figure out what is in front of us. Thank you

  • Gretchen, please know that a good number of people are rooting for you and the other plaintiffs. We believe you short of being able to travel through time to prevent what happened to you, we want what ever forms of justice you can receive. What Gothard did to you all was a horrific crime. You don’t deserve any of this. You certainly didn’t deserve Gibbs to sidetrack your case. I can’t imagine what you are all going through but please know you are believed and we want the best for you.

    • Gretchen, many, many people are hoping that you get justice. Adam Horowitz has represented victims of Fundamental Baptist pastors and has experience with the IFB culture, almost identical to the Gothard culture. He specializes in clergy sex abuse cases in all denominations. The law firm that represented the victims of Russell Hirner (Longview Baptist Temple, Longview TX) pulled out a win for their clients in civil court. The lawyer’s name was Stewart Smith, I believe. I don’t recall his law firm. I can find it again for you if you want it. It’s hard to believe that the Gibbs clan didn’t engineer this on purpose.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        i.e. “THE FIX WAS IN”?

      • “It’s hard to believe that the Gibbs clan didn’t engineer this on purpose.”

        That’s a good point. I think the judge has done the right thing because at this point it’s hard to know if either side could have trusted Gibbs.

      • The lawyer who successfully sued Bob Gray/Longview Baptist Temple for permitting Russ Hirner to molest girls is Neil Smith at Nix, Patterson, and Roach. They have an entire page dedicated to helping victims of clergy sex abuse.

      • “It’s hard to believe that the Gibbs clan didn’t engineer this on purpose.”

        I have thought this from the beginning, having him as a lawyer would be a tragic mistake.
        I truly feel like he preyed upon the vulnerable victim’s.
        He is in an ego match with Daddy.
        He didn’t give a da*n about what these women went through.
        If he did, he would not have stated in court transcripts that brining Gothard back would lead to resolution for the victims!
        What lawyer would think putting a RAPIST and sexual predator back in the position that allowed him to commit his crimes for YEARS, would give any resolution to the victims!?

  • I have now read the court transcripts and the judge’s full decision. I think Gothard knowingly took advantage of Gibbs’ offer to work to Gothard’s advantage with the goal to resolve the lawsuit out of court and with regard to getting himself (Gothard) reinstated at IBLP. I think Gothard was unethical in doing so. I think Gibbs took advantage of Gothard’s willingness to be unethical and used this willingness to gain information and move Gothard to actions (creating an self-incriminating affidavit) which was to his clients’ (the victims) advantage. The judge’s decision quotes the Illinois law that this violates which makes it clear a lawyer cannot do this.

    When Gothard is sneaky and works both sides of the street, he gets away with it because he’s doing it in his own organization among people who he’s trained and are beholden to him. When Gibbs does this, he does it under the nose of the public court system. Gibbs should have known better. And because he uses questionable ethics, one cannot be 100% sure which side he was fully working for.

    I do so hope the defendants (Wilkenson et al) go forward with their lawsuit. Gibbs should have known better, but the fact that he used Gothard-like tactics to try and defeat Gothard at his own game and they didn’t work in the context of the greater society (court) says all the more that Gothard-like tactics when brought to the light of day are clearly unacceptable. Gibbs didn’t lose because the lawsuit is wrong, he lost because Gothard-like tactics are wrong… and absurd. I think the number of exclamation points in the judge’s decision makes that clear. Now it’s time for Gothard’s own actions to come to light in the greater society of the public court system and for his organization to be stopped.

    • Before Gibbs ruins another plaintiffs claims, he needs to be disbarred. I talked to a lawyer today about how to initiate a complaint against him.

      • Bless you for that!!
        Gibbs truly preyed upon vulnerable victims.
        There is NO excuse for what he did.

  • Pingback: Attorney Representing Victims of Bill Gothard Disqualified; Support for Survivors | Spiritual Sounding Board

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  • I am thinking of each and every one of the people that have come forward as a victim in this case, just to become a victim again of this horrible situation and this … man. Ugh. All the best thoughts to you all.

  • Excellent article! Survivors, please know that you have people on your side. If you have the strength, keep up the good fight!

  • I am so horrified that this devious sexual predator has never been charged with rape and sexual misconduct against minors — and I don’t understand why not. The statute of limitations has NOT expired in many of these cases. It is time for this evil little man to be not only sued but brought to justice!
    And all of the others who knew about the abuse women at IBLP had endured from Gothard and/or their parents also need to be held personally accountable.

  • How is it possible that IBLP is still in operation? Bill Gothard needs to be exposed for the charlatan and sexual predator that he is much more widely and he has been to date — especially among homeschool groups.

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