Settlement in Priest Sex-Abuse Lawsuit, at Least in Principle

Associated Press State & Local Wire
October 26, 2005

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Florida woman who claimed she was molested by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1960s, but the parties disagree whether a settlement they reached in principle was ever finalized.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol signed a judgment of dismissal Monday in the case of Judy Glassman DeLonga against the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Rev. Bruce MacArthur.

A week earlier, the judge received a motion and stipulation for judgment of dismissal electronically signed by the parties.

But Stephanie Pochop, an attorney for DeLonga, said she never gave permission for anyone to sign her name to the document. She said she was still negotiating terms of the settlement agreement on Wednesday.

"I had never authorized anyone to sign my name to a stipulation for dismissal," Pochop said. "And I wouldn't have done that until the entire matter was resolved."

Jeremiah Murphy, attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, said a settlement was reached and the case has been dismissed.

"As far as I know it's settled. That's what I told my client and I'm not going to tell something different," Murphy said.

DeLonga, of Pensacola, Fla., alleged in the lawsuit that MacArthur abused her between 1965 and 1970 when she was a child living in Wisconsin and he was on leave from the Sioux Falls diocese. It accused the dioceses and their bishops of fraud, concealment and negligence.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in May 2003, then-Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls said the diocese had records of six abuse allegations against MacArthur, now in his 80s.

The case originally listed three other defendants - Carlson, retired Bishop Paul Dudley, and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's bishop - but Piersol had since dropped them from the suit.

Murphy said the diocese denied legal liability in the case but felt a moral obligation to compensate DeLonga for the harm she was caused.

"We had some very strong legal defenses," Murphy said. "And in spite of that, we felt a moral obligation to Judy. She'd been harmed and we wanted to help her out."

Murphy said the Sioux Falls diocese continues to seek out anyone who needs victim abuse assistance.

MacArthur's attorney, Mark Luce of Sioux Falls, said the parties involved reached a settlement but declined further comment.

David Muth, attorney for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said it's the church's policy not to comment on settlements.

"We're very glad we're able to reach mutually satisfactory resolution," Muth said Wednesday.

DeLonga's other attorney, Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., said several outstanding issues remain unresolved.

"There was a meeting of the minds in principle, but it has not been finalized," Anderson said.

Pochop said she is upset her name was signed without her authorization and was notifying the court on Wednesday.

She said electronic signatures are commonly used in federal court, and it was a natural action for the court to issue a dismissal after receiving the motion.

"I certainly think the lawyers for the diocese are great guys and I'm sure it's some sort of misunderstanding," she said. "But it's a fairly major one."

Pochop said she hopes the settlement can be finalized soon.

"I hope that it can get done, and I think it would certainly be in Judy's best interest if we could get this thing completely resolved," she said.


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