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Mark E. Chopko | Partner
 
Chair, Nonprofit & Religious Organizations
 

CONTACT INFORMATION

202.419.8410
mchopko@stradley.com
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  Office(s):
Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia, PA

Mark Chopko chairs Stradley Ronon’s Nonprofit and Religious Institutions practice group, which brings together 25 lawyers from across the firm’s many legal disciplines to serve the unique needs of those clients. He joined the firm in 2007, after serving for more than 20 years as general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and nearly eight years as a regulatory attorney in Washington, D.C. A major emphasis of Mr. Chopko’s practice is constitutional law and sensitivity to the boundary between religion and government. He also has specific expertise in untangling the liabilities of complex organizations.

Mr. Chopko has represented clients across the country, and from Europe to the Pacific Rim, on a variety of matters including: 

  • cases where religious organizations sought protection of constitutional and statutory principles to protect their internal operations from government encroachment and to advance rights of the free exercise of religion

  • high-profile and complex cases, involving often decades-old claims of abuse and misconduct and other similarly sensitive and important issues

  • public policy and regulatory issues involving the Congress or the federal government

  • the creation of congregations, internal policies, exemption, accountability and risk management for the new Catholic Ordinariate, and assistance to other Catholic dioceses on similar questions of structure, liability, compliance and risk management

  • concerns of clients about the scope of liability or the scope of government regulation

  • organizational and management issues for religious organizations that express Christian and non-Christian, western and eastern beliefs, to integrate the concerns and principles of those religious clients into various civil structures that streamline operations; organize risk and liabilities; and protect the expectations of religious leaders, congregants and the public

  • governance, organizational and regulatory issues affecting nonprofit institutions, including religious, educational and public service entities

  • proactive strategies to anticipate and plan for risks created by clients’ activities

Mr. Chopko is recognized as a preeminent AV-rated attorney and is listed as one of "Washington, D.C. and Baltimore's Top Rated Lawyers" by Martindale-Hubbell and ALM Media. He is also a registered lobbyist.

Additional Experience

Since 2003, Mr. Chopko has served as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center where he teaches a seminar on church-state law. He has lectured widely in the United States and in Europe on such topics as liability trends, church-state relations and legal ethics at conferences hosted by bar associations, colleges and universities, lawyer guilds and religious organizations. Mr. Chopko routinely publishes articles that address legal trends and organizational concerns on such topics as church-state affairs, education, bioethics and liability. He is co-author of “Exposed: A Legal Field Guide for Nonprofit Executives,” which was written to assist nonprofit executives in identifying legal issues that can arise in ordinary business activities and to take the fear and mystery out of dealing with legal issues when problems occur.

He previously served as an advisor to an American Law Institute project on stating the law of nonprofit organizations. Mr. Chopko has also been a member of the Nonprofit and Association Committee of the Association of Corporate Counsel (America), the Religious Liberty Committee of the National Council of Churches, a Fellow of the International Academy of Freedom of Religion and Belief, and the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

Previous Experience

During his tenure with the USCCB, Mr. Chopko led a seven-lawyer staff that handled comprehensive litigation, corporate, tax, intellectual property, employment and government contracts services.

He was also the public contact for the USCCB on all legal matters, including church-state, Supreme Court cases, bankruptcy, complex litigation and bioethics. Mr. Chopko has participated in more than 30 Supreme Court cases as counsel for the Catholic Bishops as well as other religious groups, in friend-of-the-Court briefs. He is also nationally known for his work on the liability of nonprofit entities and protection of religious institutions.

During his government service with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mr. Chopko served in the Office of General Counsel where he advised the Commissioners on legal requirements related to nuclear power plants and other uses radioactive substances as they affected questions of public health and safety.

Recognition

In recognition of his support for the religious bar, Mr. Chopko was elected an honorary member of the Church Law Society of the Czech Republic. The National Law Journal also named him “Corporate Counsel of the Week” for his work on the Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and in Supreme Court victories upholding school vouchers and limiting the imposition of the death penalty.

The National Journal profiled him as one of ten people “whose ideas will help shape the debates over [church-state] issues.” Mr. Chopko has been recognized by the University of Scranton as a distinguished alumnus. 

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PRACTICE AREAS
Nonprofit & Religious Organizations
Litigation
Business
Government & Public Affairs
Corporate & Securities
 
BAR ADMISSIONS
District of Columbia
Pennsylvania
 
COURT ADMISSIONS
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
 
EDUCATION
J.D., cum laude, Cornell Law School, 1977
B.S., summa cum laude, University of Scranton, 1974
 
MEMBERSHIPS
Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
District of Columbia Bar Association
Fellow, International Academy of Freedom of Religion and Belief
Honorary Member, Church Law Society, Prague, Czech Republic
Religious Liberty Committee, National Council of the Churches of Christ
National Diocesan Attorneys Association
Nonprofit Forum
National Association of College and University Attorneys
 
PUBLICATIONS
Click here for a list of publications
 
NEWS AND EVENTS
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