Attorneys representing 75 childhood sex abuse victims and the Catholic Church in Guam believe alternative dispute resolution will resolve a majority of the cases filed against the Archdiocese of Agana, and possibly cases filed against the Boy Scouts of America.
Retired federal Judge Michael Hogan, of Oregon, has agreed to serve as alternative dispute resolution mediator in the cases and 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.
Patterson has represented dioceses and archdioceses across the country for more than 30 years and has been instrumental in resolving more than 2,000 childhood sexual abuse cases across the nation, according to the website of his law firm, Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch.
The civil litigator will work with the Archdiocese of Agana's legal counsel, attorney John Terlaje, and Hope and Healing Guam.
"These are very difficult cases for all involved ... however, I am very confident that, in cooperation with Hope and Healing Guam, the archdiocese will work successfully with plaintiff's counsel to find a fair and reasonable resolution to these claims," Patterson told The Guam Daily Post.
Patterson and Hogan have both been involved in major mediations for sex abuse cases across the nation, handling matters in Spokane, Washington, and Helena, Montana, among others. Those mediation discussions resulted in out-of-court settlements, something plaintiffs' attorney David Lujan believes is possible.
"We would like to begin mediation with Judge Hogan in late October or early November. We all agreed it would be held in Guam," Lujan said. "I expect that he (Hogan) will guide us on how to proceed and hopefully we will reach a settlement as to a majority of the cases."
'How do you put a monetary amount to the abuse?'
Lujan added he believes the mediator will mediate each claim individually and then develop a formula to determine a dollar value based on the evidence presented in each case.
"How do you put a monetary amount to the abuse? They will need to take into account the age of victim, length of abuse, the effects of the abuse, the number of times and more," Lujan told the Post.
Lujan filed an ex-parte motion with the District Court of Guam asking for a stay in the 75 cases he filed on behalf of his clients. The stay will allow the parties to engage in mediation in an effort to achieve a fair and prompt resolution of the cases, and will allow the discussions and identities of the victims to be private.
The Boy Scouts of America, and attorneys William Fitzgerald and Wayson Wong have indicated a willingness to join in alternative dispute resolution, as well as former Guam priest Raymond Cepeda, who is also named as a defendant in several civil complaints, Lujan stated.
Former Guam priest Louis Brouillard, who is named in 42 cases filed by Lujan, was served in Minnesota on July 25.
Suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron has declined to participate in any settlement discussions pending the resolution of a Vatican tribunal that is currently deliberating on his culpability in multiple child sex abuse cases filed against him in Guam by former altar boys in his care.
District Court Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. is expected to hear the motion for a stay today.
More than $530M in damages
While Lujan believes a majority of his clients' cases can be resolved through mediation, he admits that some may proceed to trial.
In total his clients are asking for more than $530 million in damages.
The church recently announced that it identified 41 properties that it deemed "non-essential" that could be sold to go toward the pending lawsuits. Lujan said he has requested a list of all of the church's mortgages and expects to get that "any day now."