Bethel Judge Tells Church It Must Respond to Suit
Abuse: Complaint Won't Be Dismissed

By Nicole Tsong
Anchorage Daily News [Bethel AK]
October 29, 2003

A Bethel Superior Court judge avoided ruling on a question of whether the statute of limitations could be applied retroactively for old sexual abuse cases and instead ordered the Catholic church to respond to a sexual abuse lawsuit recently filed by six former altar boys.

In an order issued Tuesday, Judge Dale Curda said he needed more evidence before he could rule on a request to dismiss the lawsuit based on the statute of limitations.

Curda wrote in the order that "the facts of this case have not yet been fleshed out. To rule only on these pleadings, without giving the plaintiffs an opportunity for discovery, may be unjust."

Six men using the pseudonyms John Doe One to Six sued the diocese and the Jesuits this summer, saying they were all abused by the Rev. Jules Convert while he was working in the Yukon River villages of St. Marys and Kaltag. Convert has since died, and defense lawyers argued that his death made it difficult for their clients to defend themselves.

The defendants, the Diocese of Fairbanks and the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, asked Curda to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the church was protected by the statute of limitations against a lawsuit reaching back as far as the 1950s.

Curda did not address the issue of whether the statute of limitations had run, adding that the defendants had a viable argument, but more evidence was needed.

Until now, the church has not formally answered the complaint, trying instead to get the case thrown out of court with the statute of limitations argument. The judge on Tuesday ordered them to respond.

Attorney Ken Roosa, who represents the six men, said the ruling means the church will have to produce documents, answer questions and make witnesses available to his clients.

Messages left late Tuesday afternoon with defense lawyers were not returned.


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