A new mediator has been agreed upon by the parties in more than 100 church sex abuse cases.
Attorney David Lujan, who represents the bulk of the plaintiffs who have alleged sexual abuse by members of the Archdiocese of Agana and the Boy Scouts of America, confirms retired federal Judge Michael Hogan will not be the arbitrator for the church settlement discussions.
“One of the groups didn’t want Hogan and refused to deal with him because of a bad experience in the past,” Lujan said.
Antonio Piazza, of Mediated Negotiations based in San Francisco, California, has been recognized as one of the leading mediators in the world.
According to his company website, he pioneered the development of mediated negotiations as the preferred alternative to protracted conflict in complex civil disputes, having successfully mediated the resolution of more than 4,000 cases since 1980 with some individual settlements exceeding $1 billion.
There have been 127 civil lawsuits filed in the local Superior Court and the federal District Court of Guam seeking damages that vary from being proven at trial to a minimum of $10 million each.
The parties had initially hoped to have settlement discussions this month but the parties have advised the court that March 2018 is a more realistic time frame as mediation protocols must be agreed upon.
The Archdiocese retained Seattle, Washington-based attorney Michael Patterson as defense counsel for all pending litigation filed against the Catholic Church on Guam.
While details of any mediation protocol have not been released, the mediation is nonbinding, which means any of the parties can choose to opt out of any settlement at any time and go back to the court and ask for the cases to proceed to trial.
A temporary stay has been granted in all of the cases, with the exception of four filed against suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron, to allow for the out-of-court settlement discussions.
Apuron 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 moved to dismiss the suits alleging the plaintiffs’ claims are “time-barred” and that Public Law 33-187 was “inorganic and unconstitutional”.
District Court Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. has recommended that the motion to dismiss be denied. The report and recommendation determined that the claims were not time-barred and the retroactive application of the public law does not infringe upon Apuron's rights and due process guarantees afforded by the Organic Act of Guam.
Apuron has until next week to file objections to the report and recommendation.