Trial Date Set in Civil Suit against Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
Lawyers Request Delay in Former Priest's Abuse Case
By Andy Nelesen
Press-Gazette [Green Bay WI]
October 10, 2006
A civil suit against the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay is scheduled to go before a jury Jan. 29 after the publication of a newspaper article last week scuttled a trial that was to begin Monday.
Brown County Circuit Court Judge Mark Warpinski rescheduled the five-day hearing after a lawyer for the diocese and lawyers for David Schauer, the 28-year-old man abused by a priest in the late 1980s, asked for the adjournment.
A Green Bay Press-Gazette article published Friday detailed a $350,000 settlement rejection outlined in a letter from the defense lawyers to the court. The letter was provided to a reporter Thursday amongst other filings in the case.
The lawyers involved in the case feared that the article could have influenced potential jurors and contaminated the potential jury pool. Warpinski said last week that the court took "full responsibility" for the "inadvertent release."
Schauer, of Marshfield, has sued the diocese, Ss. Peter and Paul School, and Hawkeye Security Insurance Co. alleging that the diocese and school officials were aware that then-Rev. Donald Buzanowski preyed on boys and failed to protect students. Buzanowski was convicted in July 2005 of fondling Schauer during counseling sessions at the school in fall 1988.
This impending trial hinges narrowly on whether the diocese leaders — by promise or by threat — influenced Schauer's decision to file a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages. If a jury finds in favor of Schauer, the case would then move to a liability phase.
The letter indicated that the diocese offered a $275,000 settlement with another $75,000 contributed by their insurance company. The letter indicated that Schauer, through his attorney, rejected the offer Thursday.
Schauer's lawyer on Monday also filed a motion asking Warpinski to recuse himself from the case, citing the release of the settlement details. That motion is under review by the court.
"This is a terribly important case," said Peter Isely, Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "We're concerned that victims are going to get the message that it's not safe and they need to know that the system is going to respect their confidentiality and take what their statements and what they're doing seriously."
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