SoCal Attorney Petitions against Combining Priest Sex Suits

San Francisco Chronicle [California]
February 22, 2003

A lawyer who represents about 180 people who claim they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests does not want lawsuits filed statewide to be combined because it would result in "chaos, delay and confusion." However, another petitioned for consolidation.

In a petition filed in Superior Court, lawyer Raymond Boucher said the suits should not be consolidated because "it will only bog down the process, increase the complexity and cost to most of the victims and diocese, and result in a further delay of the resolution of these claims."

Meantime, attorney Venus Soltan petitioned for consolidation.

A spokesman for the San Diego diocese said Friday that he also believed coordination of the cases could resolve the victims' claims fairly and quickly.

"We've been told coordination streamlines the process," said Chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia.

A hearing on the matter was set for March 21. Boucher filed his petition on Wednesday.

In January, a Costa Mesa lawyer filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court that a single judge hear what could amount to hundreds of cases. The petition was prompted by a new state law extending through 2003 the statute of limitations for alleged victims of child sexual abuse to sue.

In the past, the procedure had been used to consolidate asbestos lawsuits and to combine nearly 4,000 breast implant cases.

Boucher said he's against consolidation because the state's 11 dioceses are legally distinct, each with its own bishop, finances and policies on priests who were known pedophiles.

The Beverly Hills attorney said he also was against the procedure because many of the sex abuse cases do not involve "common questions of law."

"Bringing these disparate county actions together would be like coordinating all automobile accident cases in California because each case involves automobiles, insurance, a negligent defendant and an injured plaintiff," Boucher said.

Boucher suggested the state Supreme Court put together cases filed against the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses. He also favored relating cases filed against the San Diego and San Bernardino dioceses together and leave the remaining cases separate so they can be resolved more quickly.


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