MO- Judge upholds “first-ever” award against diocese
Unless Finn appeals, victims will share $1.1 million
Their message to bishop: “Accept justice, don't appeal”
They urge Catholic officials: post predators' names on church websites
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, victims of clergy sex abuse and their supporters will discuss and give copies of a new court ruling upholding their unprecedented $1.1 million “breach of contract” award. They will also urge KC's Catholic bishop to:
– stop waging an “incredibly expensive” legal defense battle, and instead honor his pledges by not appealing the ruling, and
– permanently post on his diocesan website, as a way to protect kids and show contrition, the names of all proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics who are or have been in the KC diocese.
And the group will:
– explain how their unprecedented lawsuit and the arbitrator's historic decision impacts victims across the country, and
– urge those victims in other cities and states to consider filing similar suits to force bishops to live up to their child protection promises.
Finally, they will also prod everyone who sees, suspects or suffers clergy sex crimes to keep coming forward and calling police.
TODAY, Friday, Aug. 15, 2:00 p.m.
Outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Catholic Church, 3333 Broadway Blvd. in Kansas City MO
Four-six individuals who were assaulted as kids by Kansas City priests, including at least one or two who are part of the unusual “breach of contract” lawsuit against KC Catholic officials. Most are members of a support group called SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
Yesterday, a KC judge has upheld an unprecedented “breach of contract” award to 42 clergy sex abuse victims, the only such award in the country.
Bishop Robert Finn and his diocese have now been twice ordered to pay $1.1 million to these victims because he broke his pledges to improve how he deals with pedophile priest cases.
Here's a brief timeline of this case:
In 2008, 47 victims settled child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits against Finn and his diocese. As part of that deal, victims insisted that Finn commit to 19 non-economic child safety measures.
In October 2011, 44 of those victims formally charged that Finn broke many of those child safety measures, in part by keeping two credibly accused predator priests in ministry (Fr. Michael Tierney and Fr. Shawn Ratigan) and by not reporting suspicions and knowledge of child sex crimes promptly to law enforcement.
In March, an arbitrator issued the award, in a long ruling that harshly criticized the diocese. It was confidential.
In June, Finn's lawyers disclosed the award and filed a motion to have it nullified.
But late Wednesday, Judge Bryan Round upheld the arbitrator's award and ruled against Finn in a 9 page ruling.
Church officials have the option to appeal. SNAP hopes they “choose to avoid running up even more expensive lawyer bills” and “resolve this without delay so these brave, wounded victims can focus on their healing.”
SNAP says there's never been a case like this in which victims have successfully held a bishop responsible in court for breaking the promises he made during a settlement. And the amount of this award is significant because it may well deter more Catholic officials from breaking the promises they make to victims.
SNAP suspects that hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims have reached settlements with Catholic officials that include child protection commitments. The group believes that many of them have not been closely monitored.
SNAP hopes the arbitrator's award will prompt many victims and attorneys to look hard at whether these pledges are being kept. If bishops are breaking their promises, the group hopes victims will file more suits like this.
SNAP also hopes this will also prod more victims to push hard for child safety provisions when they're discussing settlement possibilities. Catholic officials, the organization maintains, would rather just write a check. But many victims find it more healing when they are able to force Catholic officials to formally pledge to take real abuse prevention steps, SNAP says.
At the same time, however, the group suspects that the arbitrator's outcome may make Catholic officials even more reluctant to agree to child safety measure when they settle abuse lawsuits.
Roughly 30 U.S. bishops have posted names of predator priests on their websites, almost always under pressure. SNAP wants Finn to do this “so that families, neighbors, employers and others will be warned about these potentially dangerous men.”
Attorneys for the diocese include David Frye (firstname.lastname@example.org, 816-292-2000, 816-460-5726, 816-460-5732) and Mara Cohara (email@example.com, 816-292-2000, 816-460-5760, 816-460-5413). Finn's attorney is Spencer Brown (816-421-4000, http://www.deacylaw.com/ourattorneys/spencer-j-brown/
Attorneys for the victims include Rebecca Randles (816.510.2704 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org), Sarah Brown (913.269.6226 cell, 816.931.9901, email@example.com), both of Kansas City MO and Gregg Meyers of St. Paul MN (843.324.1589 cell, 651.227.9990, firstname.lastname@example.org).
The arbitrator is Hollis Hanover of Kansas City, MO (816.942.2204, email@example.com). According to his website he spent 20 years as an insurance defense trial lawyer and ten years representing plaintiffs.