Law Deposition Continues after Judge Rejects Delay
By Theo Emery
Associated Press, carried in Boston.com
January 22, 2003
BOSTON -- Cardinal Bernard F. Law, after failing in a last-minute bid to delay a sex-abuse deposition, resumed answering questions under oath Wednesday for lawyers representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney refused to delay Law's deposition, sharply rebuking church lawyers for their attempt to postpone his testimony and promising to fine them for "sandbagging" plaintiff's lawyers.
Church attorney Ian Crawford said he believed that the archdiocese had good reason to seek a delay in the deposition, which has been ongoing since last summer. If plaintiffs' attorneys comment about the deposition, it could prejudice proceedings of a state grand jury investigating criminal wrongdoing on the part of the church.
"I obviously disagree with her particular point of view," Crawford said of Sweeney. "There was no attempt to sandbag. We felt we brought this in good faith, particularly to protect the cardinal's interests before the grand jury. Obviously, she had a different take on it, and expressed her views from the bench."
The deposition of Law, who resigned last month as archbisop of Boston, comes on the same day as that of Manchester, N.H., Bishop John B. McCormack.
The top aide to Law from 1984 to 1994, McCormack will be questioned in a lawsuit filed by alleged victims of the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, who died in 1989. The suit alleges that Birmingham abused the men when he served in four Massachusetts parishes from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Law has already spent several days testifying in the Shanley deposition. His testimony resumed at 10 a.m. Wednesday and was expected to continue throughout the day. Lawyers representing Shanley's alleged victims have scheduled another day of testimony by Law for Feb. 3. It takes usually several weeks to several months before a transcript of the deposition is released.
The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that a group of mental health professionals from around the country sent a letter to Law's interim successor, Bishop Richard Lennon, protesting the archdiocese's decision to allow church lawyers to question under oath counselors it hired to treat alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
"We who are experienced in working with former victims of sexual abuse must assert that your willingness to allow your attorneys to invade the confidentiality of a survivor's psychotheraputic treatment by deposing his or her therapist is an act of reabuse," according to a text of the letter obtained by the Globe, which said it was signed by 83 therapists, scholars, clergy and others concerned about sexual abuse.
The archdiocese has said its decision to depose therapists is standard legal practice. Plaintiffs attorneys, while acknowledging the church has the legal right to question therapists when psychological or emotional damage is claimed in lawsuits, have said it was hypocritical for the church to offer counseling and then subpoena therapists.
In her ruling Tuesday, Sweeney sternly reprimanded lawyers for the Boston Archdiocese and Law, who stepped down as archbishop of Boston last month, for filing the motion just minutes before court closed and after Sweeney had left for home.
The church's attorneys claimed that lawyers representing alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse would comment publicly about the depositions, tainting a separate state grand jury investigation in the process.
"The bottom line is that the deposition goes forward as it was scheduled," Sweeney said.
Sweeney had sharp words for church attorney J. Owen Todd, who was present in court throughout related hearings on Friday, but signed the last-minute motion and left for vacation. He did not appear in court for Tuesday's hearing.
"I do not think that this motion signed by Mr. Todd, who is now on vacation, was filed in good faith," she said. "The timing of it simply cannot be explained. Not a whisper, that we know of, was made to attorneys representing plaintiffs in the deposition that this motion was coming."
Sweeney said she would require the archdiocese to repay plaintiff's attorneys for costs associated with responding to the motion, given that they had known since mid-December that Law would be giving grand jury testimony and had agreed to two dates for resuming the deposition.
Shanley, 71, has pleaded innocent to 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, and was released on bail on Dec. 11 after seven months in jail.
Law and seven bishops who had worked in the archdiocese have been subpoenaed to testify before the state grand jury, which was convened by Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly. In December, Law was subpoenaed testify before the grand jury on Feb. 25.
Todd wrote in Friday's motion that the grand jury is investigating whether "any crime has been committed by the archdiocese, certain bishops, priests, and/or Cardinal Law in connection with the same conduct alleged in the ... pending civil lawsuits."
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