Federal Judge Won’t Intervene in Sex-Abuse Settlement Talks
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
SAN DIEGO (AP) - A federal judge has rejected the San Diego diocese's request for the court to intervene in settlement negotiations over claims of sexual abuse by priests.
The diocese had asked the court to set a monetary value on more than 140 claims pending against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez said in an order issued Monday that the matter should remain under the jurisdiction of a federal bankruptcy court, where the church is in Chapter 11 proceedings.
"At this juncture, the Bankruptcy Court is in the best position to determine from a case management standpoint how and when these actions should proceed for estimation or liquidation," Gonzalez wrote.
Church officials and plaintiffs' attorneys failed to reach a settlement in closed-door negotiations supervised by a federal magistrate judge earlier this month. The two sides have tussled over what constitutes just compensation for the alleged victims.
The diocese has offered $95 million to settle the claims as part of its bankrtupcy reorganization plan. Plaintiffs' attorneys are seeking a settlement of about $200 million, which they say would put San Diego in line with settlements reached elsewhere in California.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy in February, on the eve of the first abuse trial scheduled in San Diego Superior Court. The bankruptcy halted those proceedings.
The bankruptcy court is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday about whether to release some cases for jury trial.