Deadline set for filing claims against archdiocese

People with sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis should file their claims by Aug. 3 in order to be part of the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 Reorganization settlement, Judge Robert Kressel ruled April 16.

Richard Anderson, an attorney of St. Paul-based Briggs and Morgan representing the archdiocese, called establishing the Aug. 3 date “a step in the right direction.”

“It will help us to reach the ultimate goal, which is a consensual plan that fairly treats all parties and fairly compensates victims,” he said.

The Aug. 3 deadline was the date the archdiocese proposed. Its attorneys cited the need to set a claims filing date in order to move toward a plan for Reorganization, which will include a settlement for claimants alleging sexual abuse by clergy. They advocated for the August date to give them time to notify potential claimants while containing legal costs, making more funds available to help alleged victims/survivors.

With the date’s establishment, the archdiocese plans to launch a widespread campaign to make the date known to potential claimants, said Charles Rogers, a Briggs and Morgan attorney.

“The faithful can take comfort in the notion that the judge is providing for a fair and efficient process, and that the case is going to move forward as efficiently as possible,” he added.

In the courtroom, Kressel emphasized that the Aug. 3 date did not prevent claimants from filing later. “We’re not closing a window on anybody,” he said. “We’re setting a deadline for a timely filing of proof of claims.”

An August date received pushback from attorneys representing some creditors. St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents most of the current claimants of alleged sexual abuse by clergy, argued that the date should be set in May 2016 to coincide with the end of the state’s three-year lifting of its statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse.

Because of the psychological issues victims of sexual abuse face, Jeff Anderson said, they needed as much time as possible to file claims.

Kressel said he didn’t think a matter of months would make a significant difference for whether alleged victims/survivors would make claims against the archdiocese, and he emphasized that the claims filing deadline could be moved if necessary.

Among the reasons Kressel disagreed with aligning it with the end of the state’s lifted statute of limitations, he said, was that the Legislature could decide to extend the window.

Kressel also ruled that the identities of claimants of alleged abuse would be protected, and only numbers would identify them in public documents.

An attorney for the Star Tribune argued that redacted proofs of claim should be made public, but Kressel ruled that unless an alleged victim/survivor chose to make his or her claim public, the entire file would remain private. He said he was not convinced redaction could fully guarantee protection of the claimant’s identity.

The Aug. 3 filing deadline also applies to the archdiocese’s other creditors, including some parishes and vendors with payments stalled due to Reorganization.

After the hearing, Jeff Anderson called Kressel “very mindful and very sensitive to the needs of the survivors and the privacy of survivors.”

“It’s clear that there’s a real urgency for survivors of abuse to know that there is a time limit for them to make their claim and come forward,” he added.

Jeff Anderson emphasized that he would also make a serious effort to make the claim-filing deadline known.

“I’m going to do everything in our power to let the folks we know who have suffered in secrecy, silence and shame for years, never believing that they would be believed or they could do anything, share the secret and come forward,” he said.

He declined to give an exact number of alleged abuse claimants he currently represents, but said it was “dozens and dozens.”

The archdiocese filed in January for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. “This is the fairest way to resolve existing sexual abuse lawsuits as well as future claims while permitting the archdiocese to continue essential ministry and support to local people, parishes and Catholic schools,” the archdiocese stated when announcing the Reorganization.