Are Stonewalling on Documents
By Todd Ruger
The attorney for 18 men claiming sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport has asked a judge to compel church leaders to turn over specific documents as part of the civil lawsuit proceedings, court records show.
Citing 14 months of “ongoing and unjustified delays,” a court filing made by Davenport attorney Craig Levien claims the diocese wrongfully has withheld documents that the court previously ordered it to turn over to his plaintiffs.
“It is clear the legal strategy of the diocese is also designed to hide and conceal relevant and material information from the plaintiffs in this case,” he wrote, alluding to previous testimony by an expert witness of his that the Roman Catholic Church historically practiced secrecy in the cover-up of sexual abuse by priests.
But diocese attorneys say they are following court orders and have turned over documents to District Judge C.H. Pelton for his review regarding privacy concerns.
“We’re not trying to hide this information. We’re submitting it to the judge to determine if the information is relevant,” diocese attorney Robert McMonagle said.
Levien said Pelton’s previous decisions — which the Iowa Supreme Court upheld on appeal — require the diocese to turn the documents over to him.
Third time around
The court filing represents the third time he has made a motion to compel and made a request for sanctions against the diocese.
“I think it’s been very difficult for us to get all the records we’ve sought in this case,” he said. “We’ve repeatedly had to ask the court’s assistance in this case to force the diocese to turn over these documents.”
McMonagle said any documents not turned over to the judge are being worked on, but that effort has been temporarily set aside to focus on insurance report letters needed to help the mediation process in the lawsuits, something, he added, that was done at Levien’s suggestion.
Levien’s filing also contends that the diocese has been stubbornly litigious, pointing out that its motions to dismiss two lawsuits because of the passage of time since the alleged incidents occurred during the same week Pelton dismissed similar motions in two other lawsuits. Levien also said the diocese is “targeting” a man who filed a lawsuit in Iowa as well as one in California, and is trying to get his case dismissed.
“The hypocrisy of this legal strategy is demonstrated by the public pronouncement of the Bishop (William Franklin) to all diocese parishioners in February,” Levien said in his court filing.
In his filing, the attorney underlined words in a quote attributed to Franklin from the report the bishop released that month on sexual abuse by priests in the diocese. The church needs to act “compassionately, fairly and honorably” while resolving claims free from “time-consuming and expensive litigation,” Franklin said.
“The bottom line is they’re going to continue to legally attack the other cases,” Levien said.
McMonagle said Franklin is always open to helping the men filing the lawsuits and mediating claims, but “their response to that was filing more suits.
“Each case needs to stand or fall on its own as far as merits for summary judgment go,” he said, adding that such motions to dismiss are often filed in state court lawsuits. “Why is it too much to expect that you follow the laws of the state?”
Levien’s filing listed items that he said the diocese has not turned over to his clients despite being ordered to do so:
Documents and information held by diocese victim-assistance coordinators and investigators that include the names and identities of people who have information related to the sexual abuse of a minor by a priest.
The identity of 65 individuals whom the diocese reported as having made allegations of sexual abuse since 1950.
Documents and information on 16 of 20 priests whom the diocese reported
as having been accused of sexual abuse since 1950.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.