Court Clears Way for Lawsuits against Denver Archdiocese

By Sue Lindsay
Rocky Mountain News
September 14, 2007,1299,DRMN_15_5697768,00.html

The Colorado Supreme Court this week rejected an appeal by the Denver Catholic Archdiocese, clearing the way for 15 child sex-abuse lawsuits to go forward.

The cases involve alleged sexual abuse by the late Harold Robert White and Leonard Abercrombie, two priests who have been accused of sexually abusing dozens of altar boys and other youngsters.

White, a defrocked priest, was 73 when he died last November of an apparent heart attack while vacationing in Mexico. Abercrombie died in 1994.

The archdiocese asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the cases - some dating to the 1960s and 1970s - because too much time had elapsed between the alleged offenses and filing of the lawsuits.

Two Denver district judges rejected the archdiocese claims that the lawsuits should be dismissed because they exceeded the statute of limitations.

In a brief order Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against the "extraordinary writ" appealing the lower court orders that was filed by the archdiocese.

"It's a big decision for my clients, said plaintiffs attorney Mike Finnegan. "The reason they didn't settle before was that they wanted to find out what the archdiocese knew about the child molesters they were employing so steps can be taken to protect more children from being molested in the future."

The archdiocese issued a statement saying it "continues to believe that lawsuits are not the best way to help all involved. During this appeal and throughout the litigation, the archdiocese has settled with many of the plaintiffs and will continue to try to help victims of sexual abuse."

Finnegan said he hoped the ruling would put a stop to the church's stalling tactics.

"They have been more successful in Denver than other areas in stalling these cases for more than a year," he said. "We're looking forward to getting these cases under way." Finnegan said he expected the "discovery" or investigation phase of the cases to take about six months, so no trials would likely take place until next summer or fall.


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