Church Lawyers Won't Quiz Accuser's Therapist

By Martin Finucane
The Telegraph [Boston MA]
July 9, 2003

BOSTON Lawyers for the Boston archdiocese have taken steps to de-escalate their legal battle against one of the people suing over alleged sex abuse by priests, a lawyer for the plaintiff said Tuesday.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said he had reached an agreement with church attorneys that there would be no attempts to take testimony from the therapist of one of his clients, Gregory Ford.

"This is a concrete, important decision that has been made in an effort to reach out not only to the Fords, but to other victims," he said. "This is very, very positive. It could not be more positive."

MacLeish said he expected the church would stop seeking depositions of therapists in all the cases pending against it.

Messages left for a spokesman for the archdiocese and for the archdiocese's attorney, Wilson Rogers III, weren't immediately returned.

MacLeish also said the archdiocese had previously also stopped pursuing an attempt to take testimony from lawyers in his firm about their conversations with Ford.

News of the change in tactics in the Ford case came the same day that a lawyer hired by incoming Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley stepped onto the scene to help settle the hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits pending against the Roman Catholic archdiocese.

Tom Hannigan, who helped O'Malley reach a settlement with sex abuse victims when O'Malley was bishop of Fall River in the 1990s, said he was surveying the situation for O'Malley.

"I intend to work very hard . . . to try to get my hands around the situation and give him the very best advice I can. I can assure you, if it's at all possible, Bishop O'Malley would like to find a way to expeditiously resolve these matters," Hannigan said.

Plaintiffs' lawyers were heartened by the appearance of Hannigan on the scene. Some 500 lawsuits have been filed.

Plaintiffs have become increasingly restless for the cases to either move forward or be settled. The cases, which could require a massive monetary settlement from the church, have been stalemated.

But appointment of O'Malley last week by the Vatican has raised hopes for a resolution. So has the arrival of Hannigan, who has a reputation for settling cases quickly and amicably.

Hannigan attended a two-hour closed-door meeting Tuesday in which lawyers for plaintiffs and the archdiocese reported to Suffolk Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney on the status of the lawsuits.

"I have experience working with Bishop O'Malley from his time in Fall River. I saw how he behaved there and how compassionate he was and I hope I can help him sort through all the issues that will face him" when he is installed as bishop, Hannigan said.

Attorney Jeffrey Newman, a lawyer in the same firm as MacLeish, which represents more than 250 people who have sued, said Hannigan had already met with him and his colleagues.

"He's very analytical and he's not, I think, bogged down with some of the history. . . . We're very hopeful. It's easy to speak to Mr. Hannigan. He listens carefully and he doesn't make any prejudgments," Newman said.

Newman said he hoped that Hannigan, who is O'Malley's attorney rather than the archdiocese's, would ultimately take over the direction of the case from Rogers.

"I think that if he does that, that's going to give this the best opportunity to breathe and the greatest potential for resolution in the shortest amount of time," he said. "Tom Hannigan is the one person they should have chosen and they did so."


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