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Expert Witness Disputes Legitimacy of Diocese Bankruptcy Claims

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

A bankruptcy judge will decide by Monday whether to proceed with civil trials in at least 40 sex-abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. Lawyers representing 150 people who claim they were victims say re-activating those trials is the only way to force the diocese into a settlement. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more on the story from Federal court.

Bankruptcy judge Louise Adler called in financial expert Todd Neisen to audit San Diego's Catholic Diocese. Nielsen was asked to consider if parishes are independent financially and can be considered separately from the diocese assets.

He said his analysis of the churches' books revealed a “financial stew” where you can separate the peas from the carrots and the potatoes, but the money is all essentially co-mingled. He compared the financial relationship of the diocese to the parishes as that of a neglectful parent who never audits the books.

Attorneys for the diocese argued no money was hidden, but even the judge disputed their claims that money was not transferred after the sex abuse lawsuits were filed.

Judge Adler will rule on Monday whether 40 cases should go to juries in state court for trial. She will rule in September whether the diocese can legitimately file for bankruptcy.

Alison St John, KPBS News.

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