New Archdiocese Emissary, Abuse Lawyers Meet

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
July 12, 2003

Archbishop-designate Sean P. O'Malley's new emissary to hundreds of sexual-abuse plaintiffs hosted some 30 attorneys yesterday to push ahead prospects for a global settlement in the church molestation scandal.

Attorney Thomas H. Hannigan Jr. and the lawyers and mediators he met with agreed not to discuss details of the talks "in order to allow a free exchange of information," according to a press release from the Greenberg Traurig firm, which represents 240 claimants.

But several attorneys present, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the talks were "general" and did not address how much money the Archdiocese of Boston would offer its more than 500 accusers, or what system would be used to apportion the payouts.

The 90-minute afternoon session ended after church lawyers and mediators said they would review matters, then gather plaintiffs' lawyers next week. They are set to meet with Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney, who is overseeing the cases, next Friday.

Hannigan, of Ropes & Gray, was brought in by O'Malley on Monday to speed up the stalled settlement talks. He was joined yesterday by attorneys of the Rogers Law Firm, longtime archdiocesan counsel.

Hannigan is credited with helping O'Malley resolve nearly 70 lawsuits a decade ago against the Diocese of Fall River which resulted from the sexual depravations of the former Rev. James R. Porter.

Most of the lawyers present had agreed to a moratorium on civil litigation against the church while negotiations were under way.

That moratorium ended last Friday but had been informally continued because of Hannigan's intervention.

One attorney who never agreed to the moratorium, Mitchell Garabedian, refused to discuss the details of yesterday's session but said he came away "a lot more skeptical than optimistic" that the cases would be settled anytime soon.

Garabedian said he had no choice but to continue litigating cases because "14 defendants who are important witnesses of mine are between 70 and 90 years old."

Also yesterday, Paula and Rodney Ford of Newton issued a statement saying they had "reluctantly instructed our attorneys to resume their litigation efforts" in their son Greg's lawsuit against the church.

"The archdiocese cannot proclaim peace, then decide to wage war on our family," they said


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