8 Oct 2008

Judge chosen to review files from L.A. archdiocese in nation's largest clergy abuse settlement

The Union-Tribune, California
October 7, 2008


LOS ANGELES – The nation's largest clergy abuse settlement moved forward Monday after a replacement judge was chosen to review and decide which priest personnel files from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles can be made public.

The appointment ended a four-month delay caused when the original judge in the $660 million settlement recused himself – a move that threatened to send the case back to state court and possibly add months or years to the process.

The district attorney's office has said it will review the files – including letters and reports from doctors and psychologists – for evidence of possible crimes.

Venus Soltan, an attorney for dozens of alleged molestation victims, said the thousands of priest files will likely take several months to be reviewed and released.

The documents' release was part of the settlement reached last summer between the archdiocese and people who claimed they were sexually molested by its priests. The agreement called for a court-appointed mediator to decide which documents could be released to the public.

Justice Edward Panelli was initially tasked with reviewing the files but recused himself unexpectedly in June because he sits on a clergy abuse review board for the Diocese of San Jose and received a papal community service award from the pope last year.

After months of negotiating on both sides, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Monday chose retired Judge Dickran Tevrizian as the replacement. Tevrizian was among three judges experienced in clergy abuse settlements who attorneys submitted as potential mediators, Soltan said.

Soltan said the process took longer because they could not agree on a mediator and the archdiocese was “just stalling in hopes everyone will forget about it.”

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said he was pleased with the appointment and expected “things will go quietly from now on.”

Plaintiffs believe the priests' files, which Soltan estimated contain thousands of pages, could contain evidence of criminal wrongdoing by church leaders.

Similar files were released by the Diocese of Orange in 2005 and showed that two officials who covered up for molester priests years ago remained in top church positions. Another 800 pages that came out in Wisconsin this year showed the church knew of credible molestation reports against a priest but didn't remove him.

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