Nearly 150 Clergy Sex Abuse Accusers to Be Deposed
By Haidee V. Eugenio
Pacific Daily News
December 21, 2017
|The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna is shown in this file photo.|
Formal mediation to try to settle nearly 150 Guam clergy sex abuse cases won't start until June 2018 to allow for the deposition of each of the plaintiffs.
This will allow the local Catholic Church's insurance carrier, a subsidiary of AIG, to help evaluate claims for damages and liability, attorneys told the federal court Thursday.
Each of the plaintiffs will be deposed for up to four hours each. They will provide sworn statements to the parties' attorneys, said Seattle-based attorney Michael Patterson, co-counsel for the Archdiocese of Agana.
The archdiocese is a named defendant in all the clergy sex abuse cases filed in the U.S. District Court of Guam and the Superior Court of Guam.
|Seattle-based attorney Michael Patterson, co-counsel for the Archdiocese of Agana, talks to reporters after a status conference on clergy sex abuse cases, in district court on Dec. 21, 2017. (Photo: Haidee Eugenio/PDN)|
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said there have been 103 cases filed in federal court and 44 in local court as of Dec. 20.
The chief judge said she was hoping the parties had finalized their mediation protocols by now, but acknowledged the progress made so far.
Attorney Delia L. Wolff, co-counsel for plaintiffs, told the judge formal mediation will take place in June 2018, instead of March 2018. Patterson told the judge the new schedule will allow for defendants' counsels and insurance provider ample time to depose the plaintiffs.
He later said National Union Insurance Co., a subsidiary of insurance giant AIG, has been providing coverage to the Archdiocese of Agana for some 30 years. Patterson said National Union/AIG is a necessary part of the mediation process because it will afford the defendants money to resolve the cases for and on behalf of the archdiocese.
Patterson told the judge that Guam is unique because of the large number of cases, as well as the defendants' limited resources. Guam's archdiocese is relying heavily on its insurance coverage to try to settle the clergy sex abuse cases, Patterson said.
Insurance representatives will be on Guam for the formal mediation in June, he added.
"And we expect that they would come with authority to resolve these cases for and in behald of the archdiocese," he said.
BGuam-based attorney John Terlaje also is representing the archdiocese in the clergy abuse cases.
|Archdiocese of Agana co-counsels John Terlaje, left, and Seattle-based Michael Patterson, right, along with Archbishop Anthony Apuron's counsel Jacqueline Terlaje, center, exit the U.S. District Court building Thursday Dec. 21, 2017, after a status conference in clergy sex abuse lawsuits that the parties want to settle out of court. Formal mediation has been reset for June 2018 as nearly 150 plaintiffs would be deposed to help evaluate their claims and potential monetary liability. (Photo: Haidee Eugenio/PDN)|
The archdiocese's counsels sent their latest version of the proposed mediation protocol to attorney David Lujan and Wolff, counsels for all plaintiffs in federal court. Wolff told the judge revisions are still needed.
Other attorneys present in court were Boy Scouts of America counsel Patrick Civille, as well as Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron's counsel, Jacqueline Terlaje. On the phone was attorney Wayson Wong, counsel for former Guam priest David Anderson. Counsels for plaintiffs who filed in local court also were in the courtroom, including Michael Berman and Kevin Fowler.
The plaintiffs want individual settlements. The defendants — including the archdiocese and the Boy Scouts of America — propose a global settlement.
Lujan told the judge each plaintiff has a different injury and their claims need to be evaluated individually.
Patterson, who has handled clergy sex abuse cases and settlements on the mainland for years, said the archdiocese wants a global mediation process.
"I'm not aware of any cases in the mainland United States that involve 50 or more plaintiffs where there was not a global resolution," he said.
Counsels also told the chief judge that all parties have made a final agreement to have Antonio Piazza, of the San Francisco-based Mediated Negotiations, to serve as mediator. Piazza mediated the dispute between Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and two of his former Harvard colleagues.
The parties also decided to tap U.S. District Court Senior Judge Alex Munson as the discovery master. Tydingco-Gatewood encouraged the parties to consider also tapping judges who worked on clergy sex abuse mediation and settlements in Hawaii, and gave the parties until Jan. 4 to tell her about their decision.
The chief judge said she will discuss with Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo the possibility of having a Jan. 16 joint status conference for all cases in local and federal court.
At the request of Apuron's counsel, the chief judge said she will hold off deciding on the archbishop's case until next year.