Judge Halts Priest Sex Case

By Calvin Lear
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
April 13, 1994

LAFAYETTE - A judge has ruled that a woman waited too long to sue the Catholic Church and a retired Crowley priest over alleged sexual abuse.

Judge Jules Edwards ruled in state district court here Monday that Janice Fairchild's lawsuit was not filed within the legal time limit.

Her attorney said he will file an appeal.

Fairchild, 42, of Baton Rouge, sued the Roman Catholic Church, the Diocese of Lafayette, and Aldeo Gilbert, 77, of Crowley, on Dec. 4, 1992, 363 days after she allegedly remembered a sexual assault.

She remembered during a psychological evaluation, her attorney said.

The statute of limitations - the time limit for filing suit - ran out, Edwards ruled.

The judge agreed with the arguments of church attorney Bob Wright of Lafayette, who maintained that the limit had run out.

Wright said Edwards was "eminently correct.

"He's right. It's clearly prescribed," the attorney said.

On Dec. 6, 1991, Fairchild remembered that Gilbert choreographed a sexual assault against her by two women followers in 1965, according to Fairchild's attorney, Richard Ducote.

He said Edwards' ruling was based in part on the fact that Fairchild remembered other abuses prior to Dec. 6, 1991.

However, each molestation can be a separate tort, and the one-year time limit on the lawsuit shouldn't have started until Dec. 7, 1991, Ducote said.

Frank Dawkins, Gilbert's attorney, said he was pleased with Edwards' ruling and believes that Ducote has little chance on appeal.

Even if suppressed memory were allowed to set the time limit, Fairchild's suit still was too old, Dawkins said.

He said Fairchild had a lawyer and was contemplating a lawsuit at least a year before she remembered the alleged sexual assault.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has rejected the suppressed-memory argument in a past molestation case, Dawkins said, although Ducote said that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld it.

"We believe the case prescribed in 1968, because the last contact she had with Father Gilbert was September 1967," Dawkins said.

Gilbert vehemently denies the allegations by Fairchild and numerous other women who claim he ran a cult in Acadia Parish from the 1940s to the 1960s, Dawkins said.

Last November, Cathy Ortego of Baton Rouge sued Gilbert and the diocese for allegedly abusing her when she was a child. That suit is still pending.

Ducote said the women aren't making up their claims.


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