Guam Sex Abuse Cases Could Eclipse Hawaii's
By Kevin Kerrigan
Guam Daily Post
December 22, 2017
|The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica, as seen in Hagatna in 2017. The island's Catholic church faces numerous cases of child sexual abuse that allegedly occurred decades ago by former Guam priests. Post file photo|
The number of sex abuse cases accusing former Guam priests of sexual abuse decades ago now total 147.
And there are more cases to come, said attorney Michael Patterson, who is representing the Archdiocese of Agana, in a hearing yesterday in the District Court. "There are a couple more to be added on here soon,” he said.
In reviewing the cases, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood observed that there are now more abuse cases on Guam than there were in Hawaii, which has been dealing with a similar series of clergy abuse cases.
Currently, 103 of the Guam cases are in federal court before Tydingco-Gatewood. Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo presides over 44 others. Tydingco-Gatewood said she’ll meet with Bordallo in January to work out procedures for handling the local and federal cases going forward.
In April 2016, nearly 150 victims of child sex abuse filed lawsuits against Hawaii's Catholic Church and other local institutions in the past four years, hawaiinewsnow.com reported. This includes more than two dozen lawsuits that were filed within the last two weeks in April 2016, which was the deadline to sue, the news website reported.
The Guam sex abuse plaintiffs' lawsuits collectively seek close to $500 million, Post files show.
In yesterday's hearing, Tydingco-Gatewood expressed disappointment that the mediation protocols in the clergy sex abuse cases have not yet been completed.
As a result, the start of the mediation process has been pushed back to June, from March next year.
During a status hearing, the judge ordered all the parties involved to reach an agreement on the mediation protocols and have them “signed and delivered” by Jan. 16. “The sooner we get the protocols, the quicker we’ll get to mediation,” said the judge.
Mediation is the path being pursued to avoid multiple trials in the more than 140 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests decades ago within the Archdiocese of Guam, and scout leaders who served in the Chamorro District of the Boy Scouts of America. The protocols are the rules that will guide the mediation process for each alleged victim and they are meant to ensure a fair outcome in each case by a uniform application of rules that all the parties have agreed on beforehand.
“We’re getting very, very close” to an agreement on the protocols, said attorney David Lujan, who is representing a number of the plaintiffs.
“There are still some points to be ironed out,” said co-counsel Delia Lujan Wolff.
Patterson agreed. He explained that the proposed protocols are being submitted to the various insurance carriers who face risk. “They want to know their exposure” to the millions of dollars in damages claimed by the plaintiffs. “There are definitely assets of the archdiocese that are in play,” he said.
Following the hearing, Patterson said no final settlement figure has been determined to satisfy all the claims. He said the Archdiocese of Agana is insured by National Union, part of the AIG group.
“We have been working very closely with them with regards to this litigation and the fact that they are going to be a necessary part of the mediation process because of the fact that they have coverage, which affords us money to resolve these cases," Patterson said.
He said the goal is to reach a “global settlement” to resolve all the cases at the same time. “We are hopeful,” he said, “that there wouldn’t be any of the plaintiffs that would find it necessary to proceed through litigation in order to get compensation.”
During the hearing, Lujan, who represents a number of the plaintiffs, underscored the importance of reaching an agreement on a uniform protocol. Each plaintiff, he said, suffered different injuries and they need to be assessed differently. And each defendant needs to be assessed differently as well, for the individual damage they caused, said Lujan.
Lujan also noted that because of the sheer number of plaintiffs, it will take at least two months to complete all the depositions which then have to be made available to, and reviewed by the defendants.
However, Lujan said he has taken the deposition of the principal defendant, Rev. Louis Brouillard. Lujan went to Minnesota to get his statements in October.
“He’s as sharp as they come,” said Lujan about the 96-year-old Brouillard. “You should have seen him exercising; he was showing off for us. There’s no question he testified in favor of us.”
Brouillard served as a priest on Guam from February 1949 until July 1981. He is implicated in 93 of the cases.