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American Catholic Lawyers Association

James M. Bendell, West Coast and Supreme Court Counsel

James Bendell obtained his law degree from Rutgers Law School following his graduation from the College of William and Mary. After working as a prosecutor he conducted jury trials for insurance companies for 16 years and presently represents individuals in a variety of civil litigation. In addition to his work in private practice Mr. Bendell served as a Superior Court Commissioner and Judge Pro Tem in Washington State. He has represented Catholics for the ACLA in New York, Maine, Idaho and Washington, and in the U.S. Supreme Court. 


Gerard J. Garno, Michigan Litigation Counsel

Mr. Garno graduated Magna Cum Laude from both the University of Cincinnati (undergraduate) and the University Of Toledo College Of Law where he was one of the top ten students and an editor for Law Review. He has had experience as an intern for a Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court as well as with one of the largest and most respected law firms in Toledo, Ohio.  Mr. Garno is an honorary member of the Order of the Coif, American Inns of Court and was listed in Who’s Who American Law Students (2000).

Currently he practices law near Detroit, Michigan with a firm that has offices in Detroit, Imlay City, and Lapeer.  Mr. Garno handles most areas of law, specializing in the areas of estate and Medicaid planning, probate, personal injury, bankruptcy, civil litigation, municipal law, collections and business and corporate law. He is a member of the Michigan Bar Association, the Lapeer County Bar Association, the Macomb County Bar Association and is an active member of his local Catholic parish.

Mr. Garno is also an avid classical guitarist and has performed and published in that area on the international level. He has made a dozen CD’s including several CD’s of Catholic sacred music. He lives on a farm in Allenton, Michigan with his wife and nine children.

The ACLA is a non-profit religious organization run by Catholics, to defend the rights of Catholics.  Among other activities, we engage in pro bono, free legal services on behalf of Catholics needing legal defense in matters of faith and conscience.

Christopher A. Ferrara, President & Chief Counsel

In 1990 Mr. Ferrara founded the American Catholic Lawyers Association and, since approximately 1991, has concentrated his practice on the pro-bono representation of Catholics in religious and civil liberties cases, both civil and criminal, both plaintiff and defense. 

Mr. Ferrara is also a widely published author on Catholic Church affairs, including the co-authored The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (Remnant Press, 2002). The author of six books, his most recent book, Liberty, the God that Failed (Angelico Press, 2013), has been hailed as "an intellectual landmark in Catholic ecclesiastical history. It should be read by everyone concerned with Christian theology and its political shaping of the society we live in." (Graham Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford).

Faith & Justice

Denis V. Brenan, Pennsylvania  Litigation Advisor (retired)

Labor lawyer for Bethlehem Steel Company from 1962 to 1967. Judge Advocates Corps., United States Air Force, 1963 - 1966, while on leave of absence from Bethlehem Steel. Joined the internationally-recognized law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in 1968 and retired as a full partner in 2002. Mr. Brenan joined ACLA in 2002 and devoted himself exclusively to religious liberties litigation in the pro-life and First Amendment arenas. In 2003 Mr. Brenan was elected president of the National Lawyers Association, the pro-life alternative to the American Bar Association. Mr. Brenan was a basketball standout at both MMI preparatory school and Lehigh University. Mr. Brenan is fully retired but mentors affiliate counsel.

  • Pro-life defense for protestors against unjust harassment from clinics and public authorities
  • Zoning challenges against abortion mills that seek to locate in residential neighborhoods
  • Employment discrimination on the basis of faith.
  • Challenges to unconstitutional legislation
  • Homosexual marriage laws and adoption cases.
  • Laws compelling Catholic institutions to provide medical insurance for contraception and abortion
  • Locating a truly suitable plaintiff for sustainable challenge to Roe vs. Wade
  • Court challenges to pornographic sex education programs being foisted on impressionable Catholic children against parental wishes
  • Challenges to the promotion of eastern religions and other forms of false religions, and even Wiccan rituals under the guise of multicultural education, while Catholic and Christian religions are banned
  • Challenges to public schools on issues such as abortion and contraception counseling without parental consent, and against the Catholic conscience of families with children in these schools


Thomas F. Portelli, ​Vice President & Associate Counsel

Mr. Portelli has extensive experience in labor law and employment discrimination matters. He has served in numerous public capacities including Hearing Officer for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (1976-1980), Council President and Police Commissioner for the Borough of Haledon (1980-1985), Assistant County Counsel for Passaic County (1981-1993). After also serving as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Paterson, Mr. Portelli is now Public Defender in Wayne Township, New Jersey.

Our intention and purpose is a labor of love and dedication to establishing the Social Kingship of Christ, and of upholding the Divine prerogatives and moral law.