Court Rescinds Order after Rare Mistake
By Todd Ruger
October 28, 2004
A spokeswoman for the Iowa Supreme Court said Wednesday that an “honest
mistake” led to the filing Tuesday of an order in which the justices
agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Catholic Diocese of Davenport in
two lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.
Another order filed Wednesday rescinded the Tuesday order and then denied
the diocese’s request to appeal.
The diocese contended that those lawsuits should be dismissed before coming
to trial under a statute of limitations that bars old cases from being
The Supreme Court did not change its mind overnight but “intended
to deny it all along,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Rebecca Colton
said Wednesday of the order that appeared to grant a hearing of the appeal.
She guessed that the wrong version of the order was filed by mistake.
“We always prepare two versions while the court is deciding,”
she said. “I think the wrong copy was given to the justice and inadvertently
“It’s rare,” she added.
Justice David Wiggins, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003,
signed off on both the Tuesday and Wednesday orders regarding the request
to hear appeals involving lawsuits filed by a man named James Wells and
another man identified only as John Doe III.
Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said the Wednesday order does not explain
why the Tuesday order was rescinded, “so we just don’t know
Craig Levien, the Quad-City attorney for at least 37 men alleging decades-old
abuse by priests in the diocese, said the Wednesday order strengthens
the message sent Tuesday when the Supreme Court declined to delay a trial
that is scheduled to begin Monday.
“This is a green light that these cases and similar cases should
proceed to trial,” he added.
About 40 people who allege sexual abuse by priests and the diocese are
continuing efforts to negotiate settlements of the cases.
The diocese has said it either will settle the cases or file for bankruptcy,
but it will not allow the first lawsuit to go to trial Monday because
that could exhaust the diocese’s assets, leaving nothing for later
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or email@example.com.