Judge : No Evidence for Diocese Deposition
By Jim Walsh
February 21, 2013
A judge has rebuffed the Diocese of Camden’s bid to spend two days questioning a man over claims he repressed memories of clergy sex abuse for more than 40 years.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Williams said the diocese has not shown “sufficient evidence” that extended questioning was needed for Mark Bryson, an Ohio man who alleges he was molested as a child by a Camden priest.
Bryson’s attorney had asked the judge to limit questioning at a pretrial hearing to a single day, or seven hours.
A group that represents victims of clergy sex abuse had criticized the diocese’s request, saying it was intended to discourage future lawsuits against the church.
Bryson’s 2012 lawsuit contends he was repeatedly assaulted by the Rev. Joseph Shannon at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden. Bryson, born in 1961, was a first-grader at the parish school at the time of the alleged abuse.
Bryson contends he repressed his memory of the assaults until February 2010, when he saw someone who reminded him of Shannon. In his view, that started the clock ticking on the two-year statute of limitations for his lawsuit.
But an attorney for the diocese, William DeSantis of Cherry Hill, argues the legal deadline passed two years after Bryson’s 18th birthday.
DeSantis plans to question Bryson in advance of a court hearing on the issue.
DeSantis contended he would need extra time to question Bryson about details of his alleged abuse and about events in his life that might have triggered memories of the incidents.
Williams declined to order a two-day deposition, but said DeSantis could request more time after he completes seven hours of questioning.
“You demonstrate good cause ... and the court will consider that application (for more time),” she said, according to a transcript of a conference call conducted by the parties on Tuesday.
DeSantis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Bryson’s attorney, Adam Horowitz of Boca Raton, Fla., said, “We’re pleased that our client won't be required to endure a two-day deposition.” He has described two-day depositions in child sex-abuse cases as “exceedingly rare.”
David Clohessy, a spokesman for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said his group was “grateful” for the judge’s decision “but still outraged that church defense lawyers would pull such a chilling maneuver.”
Reach Jim Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or (856) 486-2646