Attorneys Bicker at Bankruptcy Meeting
By Dustin Lemmon
November 9, 2006
A creditors meeting Wednesday in U.S Bankruptcy Court between the Davenport Diocese and victims of sexual abuse had some tense moments as attorneys clashed over the church's assets.
A U.S. trustee who supervised the meeting and asked questions of his own had to ask the claimants' attorney Craig Levien and the diocese attorney, Richard Davidson, to get along so they could get through the meeting.
Davidson accused Levien of grandstanding for the audience of media and attorneys when he asked Char Maaske, the diocese chief financial officer, about attempts the diocese has made to pay victims.
A few moments later, Davidson interrupted Levien and argued that he was misusing the meeting, which provides testimony that's not to be used in court, when he questioned Maaske about the value of a small farm the diocese owns. Levien noted that the land was appraised at $110,639 but was purchased for $221,511 in 1998. Levien then accused Davidson of being the one who was grandstanding.
The disagreements between the attorneys were brief, but leaders of the Davenport Diocese have said they hope to follow the example of the Tucson, Ariz., diocese, which came out of bankruptcy last year. Representatives from both sides of the Tucson case said it was important for all involved to work through disagreements toward a resolution.
The diocese filed bankruptcy last month, a little more than week before it was scheduled to go to trial on abuse allegations filed in a lawsuit by Michael Gould.
During the hearing, which lasted a little less than two hours, Maaske was questioned about the assets of the diocese, including St. Vincent's Pastoral Center in Davenport, which includes the diocese headquarters and apartments for retired priests, and the bishop's home at 2761 Scott St. in Davenport.
Among other things, Levien also asked Maaske about
property leased from the diocese by the Sisters of Humility and the ball fields that are used by Assumption High School, which are on diocese-owned land.
Maaske explained that the diocese takes 71 percent of its income through appeals to parishioners, which are collected by the 84 parishes and sent to the diocese. The remaining 29 percent includes fees and interest earned on investments, she said.
Levien also asked about the bishop's role in overseeing the parishes and about their insurance coverage.
Levien was accompanied by abuse victim Michl Uhde, who won $1.53 million in damages from the Davenport Diocese at a jury trial in September.
Dustin Lemmon can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next step in the Davenport Diocese bankruptcy will be for a U.S. trustee to appoint clergy abuse victims to a creditor's committee that will address legal issues in the ongoing case. The trustee will serve as the administrator and gather information contested by the committee, which will likely be formed in coming weeks, according to Craig Levien, attorney representing clergy abuse victims.
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