A federal judge will issue a ruling by Monday on a request by the RomanCatholic Diocese of San Diego to take the critical matter of how tovalue nearly 160 claims of child sexual abuse by clergy out ofbankruptcy court.
Lawyers for the diocese told chief U.S. District Judge IrmaGonzalez in a hearing yesterday that the fairest and fastest way todetermine how much the abuse cases are worth is for her to set up aprocess to estimate their value.
Attorneys representing abuse victims strongly disagreed, accusing thediocese of “forum shopping” in the face of a strong possibility thatbankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler will next week order the first ofthe cases back to state court for trials. Diocese lawyers said tryingcases before juries would take years and cost millions; plaintiffs'attorneys disagree.
Settlements of more than 900 sexual-abuse cases across Californiainvolving priests and other Catholic workers have averaged about $1.3million per claim. The San Diego Catholic diocese has offered anaverage of about $600,000 per claim.
Lawyers for both sides have spent this week in mediation talksbefore a federal magistrate judge. Should no settlement be reached,Adler has set a hearing for Sept. 6 on whether the diocese's bankruptcycase should be dismissed.
Adler's action came in the wake of a financial expert's reportshowing the diocese failed repeatedly to properly state its assets incourt documents.
Mark Sauer: (619) 293-2227; email@example.com