Judge to Attorney: File Complaints in Abuse Cases Within 30 Days
By Phil Ray
October 5, 2013
Altoona attorney Richard Serbin, since the beginning of the year, has filed notices of pending lawsuits in seven cases of suspected child sexual abuse involving former students at Johnstown's Bishop McCort Catholic school.
The lawsuits stem from alleged abuse at the hands of Brother Stephen Baker who served at the school as an athletic trainer in the 1990s.
Baker was a Franciscan friar who lived at St. Bernadine Monastery in Hollidaysburg when he committed suicide Jan. 26.
He was the subject of child abuse investigations in Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva wants Serbin to file complaints in his cases, according to documents filed in the Blair County Courthouse.
Complaints would detail the allegations in each case and list the civil charges, under which damages could be awarded.
Orders signed by the judge have indicated that it has been more than 120 days since the notices have been filed in five of the seven cases.
Her orders stated that complaints in those five cases must be filed in the next 30 days.
The notices were received by Serbin's office this week.
The judge's order states that if the complaints are not forthcoming, the lawsuits will be dismissed.
Serbin was out of his office this past week. He stated through a spokesperson that the cases are still active, and he described the court orders as "routine, to keep cases moving."
The Altoona attorney, who has been involved in child abuse cases against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown for the past 25 years, has teamed up with Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian in filing notices of pending lawsuits by the former Bishop McCort students.
Notices of three pending lawsuits were filed in the office the Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts last February.
Additional notices have been filed since then with the most recent on July 16 and Sept. 18.
The alleged victims are listed for court purposes as John Does, numbers 75-81.
The named defendants include: The Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular; St. Bernadine Monastery; the Very Rev. Robert D'Aversa of Mount Dora, Fla., in charge of the monastery when Baker was at Bishop McCort; The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, its bishop at that time, Joseph Adamec, and Bishop McCort High School.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-07468.