Diocese Renews Bid to Dismiss Lawsuit Solicitation of New Plaintiffs Alleged

By Louise Taylor
Herald-Leader [Lexington KY]
May 1, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Lexington is renewing its effort to get a sexual-abuse lawsuit against it dismissed and has accused the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case of wooing new clients in violation of a court order -- a charge the lawyer says is a flat untruth.

The diocese has argued from the onset of the lawsuit last year that it was not even in existence when the priests named in the case were alleged to have molested children, and that it cannot be held responsible for any claims. The diocese was formed in 1988; most of the abuse allegations date back 30 to 40 years.

Last week, plaintiffs' attorney Robert Treadway asked the court for permission to add 19 alleged victims to the suit, bringing the total to 24.

But Tuesday, diocese attorney John Famularo took Treadway to task for his attempt to amend the complaint. Treadway has been saying for months that he had additional clients, but waited until after the diocese produced documents related to the original complaint before adding the new plaintiffs, Famularo says in a motion that will be argued Friday morning in Fayette Circuit Court.

Famularo also said Treadway has been soliciting new clients "in direct contravention" of a court order issued March 20. To bolster that claim, Famularo attached a sworn statement by Jim Paris, the diocesan chancellor. Paris said that his nephew, whom he did not name, was contacted by Treadway's private investigator, Jim Starks, on March 30 seeking information about molestation cases within the church. Paris also said a friend of his nephew's, also unnamed "to protect his privacy," had been contacted the same day, and that the same detective had told him he should "get in line for a check."

Treadway said Starks, a former Kentucky State Police detective who investigates sex abuse cases nationwide, does work for him, but he denies making the "get in line" statement and that it would be completely out of character for him to make such a suggestion.

"We have never engaged him to recruit clients for the class action and that is not his function in the case," Treadway said. "His function is to gather facts and evidence; there's nothing wrong with a lawyer hiring a private investigator to gather facts for the case.

"We do not solicit clients."

Hiring Starks was necessary, he added, because the dioceses of Lexington and Covington have a culture of silence about sexual abuse by priests: "If we had to rely on what the dioceses said, we would know nothing."


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