Lawyer Seeks Venue Change for Priest Abuse Trials
Albany-- Lawyer for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests Claims Region's Judiciary Is against Him

By Andrew Tilghman
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
March 26, 2003

An attorney for victims of sexual abuse by priests is seeking to transfer their lawsuits against the Albany Diocese to a court in New York City, maintaining that he cannot get a fair trial in the Capital Region.

Attorney John Aretakis said he believes he has a "hostile relationship" with the state Supreme Court in the area in part because of the "appearance" that he was "attacking a member of the judiciary," according to court papers filed Monday at the Appellate Division.

Aretakis learned that Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi had a confidential -- or ex parte -- conversation with the church's attorney, Michael Costello. Two days later, Teresi removed himself from cases involving the Albany Diocese.

Rensselaer County Surrogate's Court Judge Christian Hummel was selected last week to handle the three lawsuits, in which people who say they were sexually abused by priests accuse the diocese of intimidating them in an effort to prevent them from hiring attorneys and filing formal complaints.

Aretakis has asked the Appellate Division to strike Teresi's Feb. 10 order warning against public statements. Aretakis also urged the court to investigate the nature and extent of confidential communications, which the diocese's attorney acknowledged last week in court papers. Costello said he received a call from Teresi requesting copies of news articles about sexual abuse by Albany priests. He said he provided the articles, but failed to notify Aretakis, which disciplinary codes require in most cases. Teresi pointed to some of the articles when he warned against public statements that could prejudice potential jurors.

The trial should be moved to a court in Manhattan, Brooklyn or the Bronx, said Aretakis, who lives in Rensselaer County and maintains an office in New York City. The Appellate Division is expected to issue a ruling in two to three weeks.

A spokesman for the diocese, Ken Goldfarb, said: "The diocese and its attorney have acted with ethical and legal propriety at every step in these matters."

"We are anxious for a determination by the court on the merits," he said.


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