The first discussions to determine mediation protocol in nearly 100 child sex abuse lawsuits will be held in Hawaii tomorrow, Guam time.
Attorneys for most of the parties flew to Hawaii to meet with retired federal judge Michael Hogan, who will serve as an alternative dispute resolution mediator, to discuss a possible global settlement for the cases filed against the Archdiocese of Agana, the Boy Scouts of America, and numerous members of the clergy.
The Archdiocese of Agana has retained Seattle, Washington-based attorney Michael Patterson as defense counsel for all pending litigation filed against the Catholic Church in Guam.
Attorney David Lujan, who represents the bulk of the victims who have filed child sex abuse lawsuits, confirmed that the settlement discussions will also include several cases that have not been filed in court.
Lujan said he represents several clients who are claiming sexual abuse by members of the clergy but have not agreed to file the cases in court.
The mediation is non-binding, which means any of the parties can choose to opt out of any settlement and go back to the court and for the cases to proceed to trial. This has been an important condition for most of the victims who have expressed an interest to settle the cases but on their terms.
A temporary stay has been granted in all of the cases, with the exception of the four filed against suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron, to allow for possible out-of-court settlement discussions.
Apuron objected to the stay as he awaits a decision from a Vatican tribunal for sexual abuse claims filed by Walter Denton, Roy Quintanilla, Roland Sondia, and Doris Concepcion on behalf of her late son, Joseph “Sonny” Quinata. The four allege they were sexually abused by Apuron when they were young altar boys in the 1970s.
The suspended archbishop has also moved for the dismissal of the lawsuits arguing he has no liability on his part and the victims’ claims are time-barred. Apuron also alleges Public Law 33-187, which provided a mechanism for victims to pursue civil action for past sexual abuse, is "inorganic and unconstitutional."
Lujan said the Hawaii meeting is expected to detail how each claim will be individually mediated and how to determine a dollar value based on the evidence presented in each case.
Should the parties agree to the mediation protocol, settlement discussions are anticipated to begin in Guam in late October or early November.