SR Diocese Joins 5 Others in Request to Coordinate Sex Abuse Suits

By Randi Rossmann
The Press Democrat [Santa Rosa CA]
January 27, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa and five other California dioceses filed a court request Monday to coordinate all pending sexual abuse lawsuits to one courtroom, calling it an attempt to streamline legal proceedings.

Lawyers for the dioceses of Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Monterey, Oakland, Stockton and San Jose joined the request to the State Judicial Council. Lawyers noted that they are not requesting that the cases be consolidated, simply handled by the same court -- Santa Clara County Superior Court.

If granted, the move would allow nine pending cases against the Santa Rosa diocese to be sent to Santa Clara County, along with as many as 150 cases from the participating six dioceses, said Dan Galvin, Santa Rosa diocese attorney.

Galvin said the dioceses requested Santa Clara County because of its central location and ability to handle complex cases. Having one or two judges handle the numerous cases should result in more consistent standards, Galvin said.

The aim would be to have a judge help mediate the cases to a settlement. If a case couldn't be settled, it could return to the county of origin for trial, he said.

The Santa Rosa diocese has paid $8.6 million in settlements to sexual abuse victims. A total of 59 people have claimed abuse by priests in the diocese. None of the current cases involve allegations of recent abuse.

Monday's court request is similar to a petition filed by plaintiff's attorneys in Southern California, Galvin said. That resulted in all cases there being assigned to the same Los Angeles courtroom.

Recently, there were 12 cases pending against Santa Rosa's diocese. One was settled, and another has been "coordinated" into a group of lawsuits being handled in Southern California. A third pending case is a class-action suit filed in late December.

Plaintiffs filed that suit seeking to consolidate pending cases against the Santa Rosa diocese and allow any remaining alleged victims to step forward. A class action case would allow one lump sum payment to be divided by all of the participating victims.

Galvin declined to give details of the most recent settlement.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.