MILWAUKEE – U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan V. Kelley disallowed two claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by clergy sexual abuse victims/survivors Dec. 13, but postponed ruling on five others until Jan. 24.
“I have to apply the statute of limitations the legislature has passed; it is the law,” she said in disallowing the claims, adding that if the state legislature were to change the statute of limitations, the claims “can be reconsidered.”
One claimant failed to demonstrate that fraud had been committed by the archdiocese, while the other suspected fraud but did not act upon it, according to Kelley.
The archdiocese objected to two other claims related to the statute of limitations, noting that given the amount of publicity surrounding clergy sexual abuse since 2002 claimants should have known how much time they had in which to make a claim.
“Billions of words have been written,” Frank LoCoco of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C, counsel for the archdiocese, said about clergy sexual abuse and related matters, e.g., fraud, cover-up and transferring priests. “We’ve provided massive amounts of media,” he added.
LoCoco noted that since 2004, attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who was in the courtroom, “put courts everywhere on notice that the statute of limitations was running,” and thus victim/survivors should have been aware of the deadline.
Attorneys will file briefs on those and two other claims in early January in preparation for the Jan. 24 hearing. Among questions that will need to be answered at that time are what are the legal standards for those claims and do those standards apply here. Another claim that will be considered that day is subject to discovery, i.e., disclosure of documents relevant to the case.
Throughout the Chapter 11 reorganization process that began on Jan. 4, 2011, the archdiocese has sought to establish eligibility of claimants. For some, the statute of limitations expired, others had already reached a settlement with the archdiocese, and still others were not abused by diocesan priests.
In a Dec. 13 statement following Kelley’s ruling, Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, wrote, “The fact that anyone was abused is a terrible tragedy. We can never say we are sorry enough to anyone who is an abuse survivor. But, the issue before the court is whether the archdiocese perpetrated a fraud. It did not and the only way to reach a resolution in the Chapter 11 is to have a definitive answer on the number of eligible claims.”