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  Archdiocese Settles More Cases

By Bruce Daniels
Albuquerque Journal
July 21, 1995

NO SUITS HAVE GONE TO TRIAL

A priest sex abuse lawsuit scheduled for trial next month, in which former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez was expected to testify, was one of 10 cases settled Thursday for undisclosed amounts.

The settlements by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe resolved the last of the cases brought by Albuquerque attorney Bruce Pasternack.

That leaves some 25 to 30 sex abuse lawsuits still pending against the church, archdiocese lawyer Karen Kennedy said. Most of the plaintiffs in those cases are clients represented by Stephen Tinkler and Merit Bennett in Santa Fe and Wendy York in Albuquerque, she said.

Thursday's settlement terms were confidential, but "mutually satisfactory," Kennedy said. Insurance carriers agreed to help pay the settlements, even though the archdiocese and the carriers have been wrangling about paying sex abuse claims.

The settlements occurred after a Thursday morning hearing before state District Judge Robert Scott to settle media issues in the upcoming trial of a sex abuse lawsuit brought in 1993 by Dan Price against the Rev. Sabine Griego, former pastor of Albuquerque's Queen of Heaven Church.

The case would have been the first to come to trial out of nearly 100 filed against the church.

Sanchez, with whom Griego lived for a time at the former archbishop's residence, was expected to testify as a witness on Aug. 23. He had originally been named as a defendant in the suit, but was later dropped.

Griego and Price also agreed to a settlement in which Griego "assigned claims" of $1.5 million to Price -- to be collected, if possible, from insurance carriers.

That left the archdiocese as sole defendant.

Other cases settled Thursday in which the archdiocese was a defendant were four originally brought against the Rev. Arthur Perrault and five against former priest Jason Sigler.

The settlements came in the form of an exchange of letters and won't be final until around Aug. 2, Pasternack said.

"My priest cases (against the archdiocese) are over," said Pasternack, whose August 1991 lawsuit on behalf of Susan Sandoval against the Rev. Robert Kirsch began an avalanche of litigation against the Santa Fe archdiocese.

In the four years since, Pasternack has sued the church on behalf of some 45 to 50 plaintiffs, he said. Most of those cases have been settled.

The Susan Sandoval suit, however, was dismissed in 1993 for failing to meet the statute-of-limitations test. The dismissal was later upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

In addition to settling most of the lawsuits brought against it, the church has settled with people who didn't want to go to court, according to Kennedy.

"Clearly the archdiocese is working very hard to resolve these problems, has reached out to a lot of people, and has raised a lot of money for counseling and to participate in settlements," Kennedy said. "I'm sure they're looking forward to the day this is behind them."

 
 

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