Plaintiffs' Attorneys Say Little Progress in Settlement Talks
By Greg Sukiennik
Associated Press, carried in the Daily News Tribune and other media [Newton MA]
April 25, 2003
Boston -- Attorneys for the alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse say settlement discussions with the Archdiocese of Boston have broken down and that church lawyers want the cases to go to trial.
Lawyers for the nearly 500 plaintiffs, including alleged victims and their families, said they are feeling increasingly frustrated and angry about the lack of progress, and at the "hardball" legal tactics of archdiocese lawyers.
"The results so far have been extremely disappointing to the plaintiffs," said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is observing but not participating in the negotiations. "Based on my observation, the settlement negotiations have stalled."
But an archdiocese spokesman said church lawyers report the talks have been productive.
"I spoke with our lawyers today," the Rev. Christopher Coyne said. "They said talks are continuing, that settlement talks are moving well and that they've seen movement forward the past few weeks. We hope to bring this to successful resolution as soon as possible."
In February, the two sides agreed to a 90-day moratorium on litigation so they could focus on trying to settle the lawsuits without going to trial. The midway point passed in early April.
Two mediators have been working with both sides to try to facilitate negotiations. But Jeffrey Newman, an attorney for the alleged victims, told WBUR-FM he believes church lawyers want to bring the cases to trial.
"It appears as though they feel they can win and that's the position that's carrying the day," Newman said. "It seems to me that position is being drawn and clarified by lawyers rather than the decision makers at a different level in the archdiocese."
Roderick MacLeish, another attorney for the alleged victims, would not address specifics of the negotiations, but said "The level of upset among the victims has never been higher ... in terms of there being no foreseeable end in sight."
Bishop Richard Lennon, the interim head of the archdiocese, has said he wants to settle the cases. But church lawyers have subpoenaed victims' psychotherapists and unsuccessfully tried to get the lawsuits dismissed on First Amendment grounds -- tactics that advocates for alleged victims have criticized harshly.
Coyne said those legal tactics have nothing to do with settlement negotiations.
Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop in December after nearly a year of criticism over his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work.
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