3rd Judge Appointed to Hear Albany Diocese Cases
Albany-- 2 Justices Recused Themselves in Suits against Church

By Andrew Tilghman
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
March 21, 2003

Rensselaer County Surrogate's Court Judge Christian Hummel was chosen Thursday to preside over three contentious lawsuits involving the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Hummel, 47, a Republican from East Greenbush, is the third judge to be assigned to the cases. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi recused himself last week amid questions about confidential discussions with the diocese's attorney.

Hummel will handle three cases in which people who say they were victims of sexual abuse claim church officials intimidated and manipulated them in an effort to prevent them from filing formal complaints or hiring attorneys.

The lawsuits, filed by attorney John Aretakis, could elicit sworn statements by high-ranking church officials, including Bishop Howard Hubbard, about their handling of child molesters in the priesthood. Hubbard is a defendant in two of the lawsuits.

Teresi and the church's attorney, Michael Costello, had at least one private -- or ex parte -- conversation in the weeks before Teresi issued a warning to attorneys in the case about public statements that could prejudice potential jurors in this and future suits, according to court papers.

Victims said they considered the sweeping order an effort to silence them and to stop them from speaking out about clergy abuse and the way church leaders handled it. Teresi subsequently clarified his warning, saying it applied solely to lawyers.

Hummel, who was elected Surrogate's Court judge in November 2001, previously served on the Family Court bench. He was East Greenbush town justice from 1986 until 1993 and was a member of the East Greenbush Board of Education for nine years.

In private practice, he was a member of the Albany law firm Carter, Conboy, Bardwell, Case, Blackmore and Napierski from 1982 to 1993.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara recused himself from one of the lawsuits in January, citing an unspecified conflict of interest.


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