Lawsuit against Diocese Won't Be Delayed
Judge Refuses to Wait for Witness in Abuse Case to Go Hunting

By Andy Nelesen
Green Bay Press-Gazette
August 29, 2006

[Note from On this case, see also Abusive Priest Evades Justice, by Marie Rohde and Steve Schultze, Journal Sentinel (3/22/03); and Ex-Priest Convicted of Sex Assault, by Steve Schultze and Marie Rohde, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (7/27/05).]

A Brown County judge Monday refused to delay an abuse lawsuit against a former priest and the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay because a witness — a priest — has a hunting trip scheduled during part of the proceedings.

Diocese lawyers had asked Brown County Circuit Court Judge Mark Warpinski to adjourn the first phase of a trial in which David Schauer is seeking damages for being sexually abused by a priest while attending Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Green Bay in fall 1988.

The trial is set to begin Oct. 9.

Father David Kiefer, the former vicar of priests for the diocese, is expected to be subpoenaed to testify during the first phase of the trial in which Schauer's lawyers will try to show that church officials intimidated Schauer and his parents in an effort to keep them from reporting the abuse in a timely matter.

According to court records, the Schauers claim that Kiefer offered to pay for David Schauer's counseling, but warned them not to discuss the situation because they could be sued for defamation of character.

If a jury finds that there was influence and intimidation by the church — a legal axiom called equitable estoppel — the statute of limitations no longer applies and the civil case will go to a liability phase where damages could be assessed against the church and the now defrocked Donald Buzanowski.

Buzanowski was convicted by a Brown County jury in July of two counts of sexual assault of a child for abusing Schauer. He was sentenced in September to 32 years in prison.

Schauer, now 28, lives in Marshfield and recently graduated with a nursing degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

In issuing his ruling Monday, Warpinski pointed out that the trial has been scheduled since October 2005 and that Kiefer's conflicting trip was planned after the trial date was set.

"I believe it would send the wrong message if we said it was all right to adjourn this trial so a priest can go hunting," Warpinski said.

In July 2003, Warpinski dismissed Schauer's lawsuit against Buzanowski and the church on the grounds that the statute of limitations for a civil suit had expired. The case was reinstated a year later by the state Court of Appeals, which ruled that because the school and diocese had discouraged Schauer from filing a suit, the matter deserved another day in court.


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