Lawyer Asks to Block or Seal Sklba's Deposition in Clergy Sex Abuse Case

By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 1, 2010

Richard Sklba

An attorney for a key witness in the clergy sex abuse cases now pending against the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is moving to block his deposition, or seal it if it is taken, prompting anger Tuesday by plaintiffs' attorneys and victim advocates.

The release of a planned deposition of newly retired Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, the second in command to Milwaukee archbishops for 30 years, would expose him to "unnecessary publicity, reputational harm and prejudice," attorney Patrick W. Brennan argued in a motion filed Friday in one of the cases in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

Plaintiffs' attorney Jeff Anderson, who plans to depose Sklba in January, said he would fight the motion and that it undermines ongoing negotiations to reach a settlement in the cases.

Victims characterized it as an attempt by the archdiocese to quash what could be "the most explosive" testimony to emerge from the civil fraud lawsuits filed over the archdiocese's handling of clergy sex abuse cases going back decades.

"Sklba handled the details, he knows where all the bodies are buried," said Peter Isely of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which held a news conference Tuesday to protest the motion.

"The number of people he could potentially implicate in the coverup - it's explosive," Isely said.

Brennan's motion was filed in a case involving Father Bruce MacArthur, who was convicted in 2008 of seven felony counts of sexual misconduct involving children.

It asks Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper to either block Sklba's deposition or strictly limit its scope. In addition, it asks the court to bar the public release of the deposition, any related exhibits, and even the recollections of his testimony by expert witnesses who might be present.

The motion is an apparent attempt to avoid a repeat of the fallout from the 2008 deposition of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland, in which he called Sklba his "go to guy" for most things, including the handling of sex abuse allegations.

That testimony was widely reported in news media, including the Journal Sentinel, and posted on YouTube and other websites.

Brennan alleged in the brief that Anderson violated an agreement not to disseminate Weakland's deposition. Anderson denied the allegation and said he released the video and transcript only after the archdiocese claimed publicly that all of the witnesses in the cases were dead.

"I never would have agreed to such a thing," he said.

The archdiocese on Tuesday declined to comment on the motion, except to correct what it said were errors in the SNAP announcement of its news conference.

Spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the motion is the work of Sklba's personal attorney, not Archbishop Jerome Listecki; and that the archdiocese has released the names of all known offender priests, except those from religious orders such as the Salvatorians or Jesuits, because it's not responsible for them.

Isely, whose group wants the archdiocese to list the names of religious order offenders, countered that Sklba still answers to Listecki; and that the archdiocese does have a say over religious order priests who are alleged to be sexually abusive.

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