Judge Rejects Request for Recusal
Priest Suing New York Catholic Diocese Alleged Jurist Has Church Ties
By Marc Parry
Albany Times Union [New York]
December 5, 2006
A federal judge has denied a request by John Aretakis, a lawyer known locally for battling the Albany Catholic Diocese, that the judge remove himself from a case because of his personal ties to the church.
Aretakis' client, the Rev. Robert Hoatson, is suing the Archdiocese of New York and others. Hoatson claims he was suspended from his position as a priest because he exposed clergy sex abuse, according to court papers.
In an order dated Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty wrote that Aretakis' sworn statement supporting his request for the judge's removal "does not contain any facts" and similarly disparaged Hoatson's own affidavits.
"This is absolute nonsense," Crotty wrote of one particular series of allegations.
He added later, "The 'appearances' Plaintiff dredges up are based on a make-believe speculation. Adopting Plaintiff's theory would mean that whenever the fertile mind of a party or a counsel can create a fictional connection, then recusal must follow."
Hoatson claimed among other things that Crotty's brother headed the Guild of Catholic Lawyers of the Archdiocese of New York. He suggested Crotty's wife may be involved with church financial or real estate affairs, among other alleged family ties.
"I am not making the argument that a Catholic Judge should not sit on such a case," Hoatson wrote. "But my counsel and I both believe that a Catholic Judge whose family has financial and longstanding ties and close relations with a litigant adverse to me should take the reasonable or prudent step of removing himself from this case."
Aretakis, a New York City lawyer with a significant Albany presence and a home in Rensselaer County, said he respected Crotty's decision on the recusal issue.
"We don't look at this as a setback," he said. "It's just something Father Hoatson wanted to have done."
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