Lawyer wants archdiocese suit heard in open court

April 28, 2008 3:55:24 PM PDT
A lawyer who represents a victim of a priest convicted of sexual abuse says he wants his client's civil lawsuit to be heard in a courtroom instead of being quietly settled out of court. The lawsuit was filed against the Chicago archdiocese for their handling of Father Daniel McCormack.

Bill Martin says when cases are quietly settled the public never gets to see documents or hear testimony about what he says is years of the archdiocese sweeping sex abuse cases under the rug. Martin was in court Monday arguing a motion seeking punitive damages in a lawsuit filed against the archdiocese. While he lost the argument Monday, Martin is determined to keep fighting in the courtroom.

It has been almost a year since Father Daniel McCormack pleaded guilty to molesting five boys. While the former priest serves a five-year prison term, the Archdiocese of Chicago is busy defending civil suits over how it handled the allegations against McCormack.

"The archdiocese has settled a couple of these cases. They pay meaningful money, but it's just money to them and they move on to the next matter. We want this one to be different," said Bill Martin, victim's attorney.

It would be different by actually arguing the case in open court. Bill Martin represents one of the victims. His case is the only one that has not been settled or in talks to possibly mediate. Mediation takes the case out the courtroom and all the information is sealed.

"They have entered into confidentiality agreements on those mediation tracts, so at this point I'm not even entitled to information, documents, or depositions," said Martin.

At this point, Martin refuses to settle or mediate. He wants the case to go to trial, so the public will have the opportunity hear hard facts about what he believes is years of the archdiocese covering up for Father McCormack, a cover-up that Martin says goes back to McCormack's days as a seminary student.

"We want to get to the bottom of the transgression," said Martin.

With a "Prevent Child Abuse" sign hanging above its door, the Archdiocese of Chicago is anxious to mediate all the cases. In a statement, the archdiocese says it is "especially committed to addressing the needs of the victim and family through mediation without the burden of an extended legal process."

The archdiocese says it will continue to fight for a prompt resolution in the case filed by Bill Martin on behalf of his client. Martin says he has already rejected several offers to mediate the case. Martin says if his case goes to trial his client may not have to testify because Father McCormack already admitted to abusing the boy.

There have been four civil suits filed against the archdiocese involving the McCormack victims. One was settled. Two are in the mediation tract.


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