Aim Is to Speed up Process, Cleric Says

By Susan Gembrowski
Union-Tribune [San Diego CA]
March 1, 2003

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego is filing a petition with the state Judicial Council requesting that all local lawsuits alleging priest sexual abuse of minors be heard in a single San Diego County courtroom, the diocesan chancellor said yesterday.

The petition specifically names five cases filed in San Diego, including a class-action suit, and two cases filed in San Bernardino, which also include a class-action claim.

Bishop Robert Brom requests in the document that any new abuse cases filed in San Diego and Imperial counties that name the San Diego diocese be heard before a San Diego judge. He also asks that the same judge hear any cases filed in San Bernardino or Riverside counties that are based on incidents alleged to have occurred before November 1978, when the San Bernardino diocese was formed. Before that, those counties were part of the San Diego diocese.

Rodrigo Valdivia, diocesan chancellor, said in a written statement that the diocese wants the coordination because it would speed up the process, make rulings consistent and could allow some cases to be resolved through mediation instead of trial.

A Los Angeles judge has been appointed to hear a coordination motion that was filed on behalf of cases in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

After a new law went into effect in January, attorneys have said that hundreds of abuse cases likely would be filed statewide. Coordination petitions allow for single courtroom hearings on complex cases, partly as a cost-savings to taxpayers. Cases that have been heard by a single judge include tobacco litigation and breast-implant lawsuits.

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