Archdiocese settles 15 Catholic clergy abuse cases for almost $1.6 million

Catholic News Service/January 9, 2007

Denver – The Judicial Arbiter Group said Jan. 4 that the Denver Archdiocese has reached a mediated settlement with 15 of 19 victims of childhood clergy sex abuse who participated in the mediation process.

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said he was "deeply grateful" to the mediators "and I sincerely hope that each of the 19 individuals who participated begin to truly heal."

The settlements ranged from $30,000 to $150,000 and totaled $1,585,000, the Judicial Arbiter Group said in a press release.

Archbishop Chaput said in addition that "we have settled claims of three other individuals who approached us directly and who did not file a lawsuit to have their claims considered." He did not reveal the amount of those settlements.

He said that in the mediation process "I made myself available personally to listen to each person who desired my presence as they described the incidents that led to the filing of their lawsuits. Through this process I personally met with 18 plaintiffs."

The mediation process was initiated last May after Judge Richard W. Dana, who co-founded the Judicial Arbiter Group in 1984, approached Archbishop Chaput and suggested forming an outreach panel to mediate and help settle sex abuse lawsuits before they go to court.

The panel was composed of Dana, vocational rehabilitation specialist John Dahlberg and Auraria Campus Police Chief Heather Coogan. The Auraria Campus houses three institutions of higher education – a community college, a state college and the Denver branch of the University of Colorado – on a single site.

"The purpose of this panel process was to reach out to the plaintiffs to help aid in their healing and, as part of that program, to resolve as many of these cases as possible," the press release said.

It said one law firm with cases against the archdiocese did not participate in the panel process, but all 19 clients represented by Miami lawyers Jeffrey M. Herman and Adam D. Horowitz chose to appear before the panel. It said 15 of those reached mediated settlements and the other four retain the right to take their cases to court.

It said Archbishop Chaput's presence was an important part of the mediation. "The process would not have had this success without his direct involvement," it said.

"Without the positive attitudes manifested by Mr. Herman, each of the plaintiffs and Archbishop Chaput, these mediated settlements would not have been achieved," it said.

The Judicial Arbiter Group specializes in helping people find alternative ways of settling disputes, including mediation and binding arbitration, before they go to court.

Archbishop Chaput said he has asked the outreach panel "to remain available to any other plaintiffs who may wish to have their claims evaluated by this panel."

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