Bishop Accountability
  Judge Denies Diocese's Request to Delay Trial

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
October 22, 2004

Church officials' threat of bankruptcy and plea for more time did not persuade a Clinton County judge to delay a Nov. 1 trial on the first of several lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse against the Davenport Catholic Diocese.

District Judge C.H. Pelton ruled Thursday that the diocese and its insurance companies knew since April 15, 2003, that the first case would go to trial Nov. 1.

"Seventeen months is sufficient time for the diocese to have recognized the insurance coverage dispute and to try to resolve it," Pelton wrote.

"These circumstances certainly are not a surprise or an unanticipated event. Moreover, an insurance coverage dispute can be resolved before, during or after the first trial."

In a hearing Wednesday, diocese attorney Rand Wonio told the judge that the Nov. 1 trial is not an option. Diocese officials would either settle all the claims before then, he said, or file for bankruptcy, possibly by today. The bankruptcy would temporarily stop legal proceedings, he said.

"The diocese now has to come to a decision," said Craig Levien, who represents 38 men who have said they were sexually abused as children by priests. "It can fairly compensate the victims who have suffered years and years from childhood abuse or they can take the extreme step of delaying justice by filing bankruptcy."

Diocese spokesman David Montgomery said church officials sought the delay to avoid bankruptcy and reorganization.

"This ruling eliminates one of the options the diocese wished to pursue in order to try to negotiate fair and honorable settlements with all of the claimants," Montgomery said. "While the diocese will continue to negotiate in good faith, the diocese believes that there may not be sufficient time to negotiate with the claimants and its insurance company before the trial date."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.