Judge: Some Clergy Abuse Cases Should Go to Trial
Judge Says Settlements Are Best, but Some Cases Should Be Tried

NBC 4 [Los Angeles CA]
December 1, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- While urging settlement to hundreds of civil cases stemming from alleged clergy abuse, a Los Angeles judge Wednesday ordered lawyers to select some cases that could go to trial.

"The best way to settle all of these cases is through settlement," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Haley J. Fromholz said Wednesday during a hearing to gauge the progress of negotiations in all the cases.

But Fromholz also told the court-appointed lead counsels for the alleged victims and the Catholic dioceses to select a set of cases that reflect the universe of cases and come back to court on Jan. 7. Fromholz said he wants the cases to be prepared, scheduled for trial and tried if necessary, though he hopes settlement will come first.

Attorney Raymond P. Boucher, court-appointed lead counsel for the alleged victims, had told the judge that, in his experience, scheduling trials encourages attorneys to move cases forward.

At the Jan. 7 hearing, the attorneys also will be asked to report on any progress in settling the cases.

During Wednesday's hearing, Fromholz warned the dozens of attorneys who showed up for the status conference against speaking to media. The settlement negotiations are closed to the media and all parties are under a gag order.

Negotiations Tuesday between attorneys for the alleged victims and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange went past 8 p.m. for the second night in a row and will pick up again Thursday morning.

Previous negotiations collapsed in June when the two parties found themselves millions of dollars apart on a settlement. Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown had offered more than $40 million, several people close to the negotiations told the Los Angeles Times.

A $40 million settlement would have been the second-highest by a diocese in the nation. In 2003, Boston paid $85 million to 552 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

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