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  Former NY Judge Levine to Head Project for Clergy Abuse Victims

By John Caher
New York Lawyer Journal [Albany NY]
September 23, 2004

ALBANY Retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard A. Levine yesterday unveiled an unusual mediation program designed to aid victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Judge Levine told a press conference that he is staking his own reputation on the integrity and independence of the program funded primarily by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and operated in conjunction with the New York State Dispute Resolution Association.

The not-for-profit association administers the Unified Court System's Community Dispute Resolution Centers program.

Judge Levine urged victims of pedophile priests, many of whom do not trust the church hierarchy, to place their confidence in him and the program he designed. Judge Levine is a widely respected judge who spent a decade on the Court of Appeals before retiring two years ago. He is also a former Schenectady County district attorney and Family Court judge. He is not a Catholic.

"I have my own reputation of 40 or more years of public service, in which I think I have demonstrated my independence," Judge Levine said. "If that is not good enough, I don't know what we can do about it."

The diocese hired Judge Levine, now special counsel to Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, last fall to create a credible remedy for victims who, because of the statute of limitations, have no avenue of relief through the courts.

Yesterday, he announced the results of "what became a personal journey of enlightenment, perspectives and empathy regarding individuals, many of whom were especially in need of pastoral guidance and support but who suffered degradation at the hands of someone they were taught, indeed conditioned, to trust completely."

The Independent Mediation Assistance Program will be funded primarily through a $5 million contribution by the Albany diocese.

In addition, Debevoise & Plimpton has contributed $225,000. Debevoise partner Mary Jo White earlier this year was hired by a diocesan entity to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by Bishop Hubbard. The investigation, which cost the diocese $2.2 million, cleared the bishop.

 
 

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