Judge Orders Diocese Attorneys to Court

By Sandi Dolbee
Union-Tribune [San Diego CA]
February 21, 2007

Just days after San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert Brom sent a letter to parishioners suggesting the diocese may file bankruptcy as it faces about 150 clergy abuse lawsuits, a Superior Court judge has ordered attorneys to come to court on Thursday.

The order, issued by a Los Angeles judge, is "to see if we can resolve our differences," said San Diego attorney Andrea Leavitt. Leavitt is representing several of the plaintiffs who allege they were sexually abused by religious members when they were minors.

Leavitt said attorneys are negotiating this week and there is still a chance for resolution before the first of the cases goes to trial next week.

"There is no settlement yet," said diocese chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia late Wednesday. He confirmed that negotiations were under way in Los Angeles.

Most of the San Diego lawsuits were filed in 2003 after the state Legislature lifted for one year the legal statute of limitations, allowing the clergy cases to go forward. The cases date back decades.

Brom said in his letter, which was inserted into bulletins and handed out at services last weekend, that if the diocese can't reach acceptable settlements "the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court."

It would become the fifth diocese in the nation to seek such protection joining Portland, Spokane, Tucson and Davenport, Iowa.

Plaintiffs, and their supporters, have blasted that idea, calling it a stalling tactic.

"This is a move by Bishop Brom to keep crimes secret and to keep as many Catholics in the dark and deceived and blind to this crisis," Mary Grant, a Southern California spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said earlier this week.

"As long as these crimes are hidden," she added, "they're doomed to repeat themselves."

Sandi Dolbee: (619) 293-2082;

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