Judge Pulls out of Case Involving Diocese

By Ramon Bracamontes
El Paso Times
April 28, 2009

EL PASO -- County Court Judge Javier Alvarez has withdrawn from presiding over a civil lawsuit filed against the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, even though he disagrees with the allegation that he has a conflict.

Three law firms representing an El Paso man who claims he was sexually molested in 1964 by a priest at Our Lady of the Light Parish filed a motion asking Alvarez to recuse himself. The motion stated that in the past eight years Alvarez had given more than $8,000 from his campaign account to the church -- leaving the appearance that he may be biased.

In his decision to step aside, Alvarez stated that the motion asking him to withdraw was "without merit."

"Nonetheless, to advance judicial economy and assist the parties in bringing resolution of the issues they have brought before the court, Judge Javier Alvarez exercises his right to voluntarily recuse himself," he wrote in his decision.

The judge said he had disclosed, as required by law, all of his charitable contributions. He also said he had no role in the management or leadership of the diocese or any parish.

A new judge to oversee the case has not yet been appointed.

The recusal motion was filed by three law firms: Durham and Pittard of Dallas; Terry Scarborough of Austin; and Gilstrap and Harmonson of El Paso.

In 2006, El Paso attorneys T.O. Gilstrap and Clark Harmonson filed a civil lawsuit against the Catholic diocese and Monsignor Thomas Rowland on behalf of a "John Doe." The lawsuit alleges that in 1964 John Doe was an altar boy at Our Lady of the Light Parish, and that he was repeatedly molested by a priest.

Rowland was not accused of abusing anyone. He was named in the lawsuit because he refused to report the case to authorities, the lawsuit alleged.

The civil case was assigned to Alvarez, judge of County Court at Law No. 3.

On Oct. 30, 2007, Gilstrap and Harmonson filed a motion for recusal against Alvarez, stating that he was an active member of the Ca tholic Chu rch. They withdrew the motion in January 2008.

Then in September 2008, Rowland asked that the case be dismissed. Alvarez, without conducting a hearing, dismissed the case on March 24, 2009, because the statute of limitations had expired, court records show.

"It was only after the plaintiff received an adverse ruling on the motion for summary judgment that the plaintiff decided to refile their motion to recuse," Alvarez wrote.

Gilstrap and Harmonson have also filed a motion for a new trial.

Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at; 546-6142.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.