More summons issued, stay ends in Guam clergy sex abuse cases

CATHEDRAL: The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña is pictured in this 2017 file photo. Court summons were issued in connection with sex abuse lawsuits filed last week. Post file photo

While the Archdiocese of Agana has yet to compensate nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse survivors, it has already paid or been ordered to pay some $3.9 million of the $4.38 million in attorneys' and real estate professionals' fees and costs in its nearly two-year bankruptcy case.

These figures are based on a review of proposed, awarded and paid amounts contained in documents filed in the District Court of Guam in 2019 and 2020.

The numbers include recent fourth interim fee applications that the federal court will hear in January, amounting to about $480,601.

The fourth interim fee applications cover bills for services rendered only from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30, 2020.

After review and scrutiny of the proposed billings, inclusive of fees and reimbursable costs, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood reduced many of the amounts from the first three billing cycles, saying the higher the legal fees, the lower the amount that could go to clergy sex abuse survivors.

Other defendants in clergy sex abuse cases – including the Sisters of Mercy, the Capuchin Franciscans and the Boy Scouts of America – already have settled with some of the abuse survivors.

The settlement amounts have been kept confidential.

The archdiocese and other defendants are still in mediation to try to settle the abuse lawsuits, and the billing meters will continue to tick.

If settlements fail, the clergy sex abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese could go to trial.

Nearly 2 years in bankruptcy

Next month marks two years since January 2019, when the archdiocese sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to settle clergy sex abuse survivors' claims worth more than $1 billion, while keeping all its churches and schools open.

"Our motivation for going through this measure has been and still is our desire to bring the greatest measure of justice in consolation to those who suffered in the hands of the clergy," Archbishop Michael Byrnes said on the day the bankruptcy was filed. "We take responsibility as a church for the sins of the past."

Based on review of court documents, the following are combined amounts already paid and awarded for three billing periods, as well as proposed for the fourth billing period:

  • $1.95 million for Stinson LLP, the Minnesota-based counsel for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors including Guam clergy sex abuse survivors and other creditors such as banks.
  • $1.03 million for Elsaesser Anderson Chtd., Idaho-based counsel for the archdiocese.
  • Nearly $442,000 for Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch, special counsel for the archdiocese.
  • $305,000 for Remax Diamond Realty, archdiocese realtor for the sale of the former Accion Hotel in Yona. Proceeds of the $5.7 million sale were supposed to help pay clergy abuse survivors.
  • $215,141 for Keen-Summit Capital Partners LLC, a supplemental real estate agent for the creditors' committee.
  • $194,300 for Guam-based attorney John Terlaje, archdiocese counsel.
  • Some $186,000 for Blank Rome LLP, archdiocese special insurance counsel.
  • Nearly $48,000 for attorney Paul Richter, special insurance counsel for the creditors' committee.
  • $17,104 for Cornerstone Valuation Guam, creditors' committee appraiser and real estate consultant.

These legal and professional fees relate only to the archdiocese's bankruptcy filing, and exclude amounts paid for legal and other fees incurred since 2016, when former altar boys started coming forward to sue the archdiocese for alleged rape and sexual molestation mostly by priests, including those who later became archbishops.

Guam's archbishop for some 30 years, Anthony Apuron, was stripped of his title after a Vatican tribunal found him guilty of sexual abuse of minors.

Nearly 300 clergy sex abuse lawsuits have been filed since 2016, when Guam lifted the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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