More Judges Recuse themselves in New Orleans Clergy Abuse Lawsuits
When one federal judge recused herself from cases involving clergy abuse in New Orleans, it was notable. Now that four judges have recused themselves, it is concerning.
These recusals represent nearly 1/3 of all federal judges in New Orleans and paint a disturbing picture of just how well-connected Catholic officials in New Orleans are to the justice system. Even a jurist who has not yet recused himself has ties to the local Archdiocese.
On the one hand, we are glad that these judges have recognized their conflicts and removed themselves from the situation. On the other, we worry about the level of connection, and what it bodes for the outcome in these important cases. Given the Catholic Church’s history of obfuscation, minimization, and outright hostility to victims of clergy abuse, these apparently deep ties are extremely worrisome to survivors and advocates.
“Chapter 11 is infuriating on many levels,” said Kevin Bourgeois, Leader of SNAP New Orleans. “But to have four federal judges recuse themselves because of their close affiliation to the Archdiocese doesn’t sound or feel comforting to me as a survivor.”
Judges have a duty to avoid “even an appearance” of impropriety or potential bias. Given the deep connections between the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the potential for a fair hearing for survivors in the bankruptcy proceeding seems very slim to us. We hope that the remaining jurists who have conflicts will also remove themselves. If there is no local federal judge who meets the standard to hear these cases, we urge the court to appoint an outside jurist.
The survivors who have come forward at great personal costs deserve to feel that their issues and concerns will be treated in an even-handed manner.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)