ALBANY — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany on Thursday fleshed out its proposed mediated settlement process for victims of clergy sex abuse.
Some aspects of the proposal are unclear, and a lawyer for 25 of the roughly 440 people suing the diocese said it raises more questions than it answers. But the diocese stressed that it was only a draft.
The diocese first publicly launched the concept on June 29. He said mediated compensation could result in faster and fairer settlements than if he had to litigate each claim in court or file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The most recent communication contained multiple references to a potential bankruptcy filing, a step four other New York dioceses have already taken.
The plan was developed by consultants, including a retired judge who spent a quarter century on the federal bankruptcy bench. It creates a trust funded by available diocesan assets, proceeds from insurance companies and insurance proceeds, and planned dedicated assets of co-defendants such as religious communities.
The diocese said individual parishes may also have to contribute.
A court-appointed neutral mediator would help determine amounts to be paid into the trust by the diocese and insurers. After deducting the costs of running the trust, survivors would withdraw prorated payments from the trust.
The framework would be similar to what would be adopted in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the diocese said, but would be faster and less expensive to implement.
The plan would be subject to the approval of the court and the survivors themselves.
The diocese said Thursday the plan would result in more money for survivors because the mediation plan would be less costly than litigation or bankruptcy.
Three years ago in New York, the long-running clergy pedophilia scandal entered a new phase as the state’s Child Victims Act briefly allowed civil lawsuits for age-old incidents of abuse. several decades that had been – and again are – well beyond the statute of limitations. for a civil suit.
Four of New York State’s eight Catholic dioceses – Buffalo, Rochester, Rockville Center and Syracuse – subsequently filed for bankruptcy under the financial weight of possible legal settlements or trial verdicts.
Attorney Mallory Allen, who represents 25 plaintiffs against the Diocese of Albany, said Friday that the draft proposal raises more questions than it answers and appears to be one more attempt to conceal information that would be revealed by litigation – the diocese recently lost its appeal seeking to keep personal records confidential.
Attorney Matthew J. Kelly, who represents only one victim of sexual abuse, said Friday that diocese attorneys used the specter of bankruptcy at a meeting in June as leverage to get his client to settle $750,000, claiming that if he didn’t accept it. , the diocese would file for bankruptcy, which would reduce its payment and delay it for several years.
Kelly could not determine the likelihood of a bankruptcy filing, so his client accepted the offer, a resolution that was off the radar until the Times Union newspaper earlier this week reported it as the first major settlement of a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act which was scheduled for trial.
Kelly’s client was abused by the Reverend Mark Haight, who now lives in Schenectady.
Kelly, of Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux in Albany, said he had to file 13 separate motions for evidence of how the diocese treated Haight, whose personal records were intentionally misplaced and/or misplaced.
The diocese claimed it first learned of Haight’s misconduct in 1990, but records show he assaulted a young altar boy in Troy in 1977 and the diocese later moved him to Rotterdam, said Kelly.
The diocese’s legal struggle to cover up evidence of abuse – at the cost of considerable time, money and emotional pain for survivors – seems, to some observers, at odds with its simultaneously expressed desire to help those he admits to having been abused.
“Hypocrisy” is the word used by Kelly.
Allen said via email:
“This is a diocese that, after years of struggling with survivors, has recently been ordered to produce its secret files of priests. Instead of releasing the records, they want survivors to stop searching for the truth and quietly resolve their cases. »
Allen had concerns about two other provisions of the draft proposal: It does not say how much money the diocese plans to contribute. And it forces survivors to blindly sign a claim release, not knowing how much they will get in return and giving up their right to appeal the amount.
“It’s not a way to go” said Allen, of Washington law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala. “This is an attempt by the diocese to strip survivors of their rights and hide diocesan secrets.”
But she added that the proposal is in its early stages.
The diocese offered the same point to The Daily Gazette on Friday, when asked how it could set up a kitty for victims of sexual abuse in mediation when it did not know how many would opt for mediation, and so how much money he needed. reserved for litigation.
The proposal released Thursday is a draft, a spokeswoman said.