Archdiocese: Proposal to move claim deadline to August fair to victims, reorganization process

| April 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed a motion April 1 to require all proofs of claims against it involving child sexual abuse by clergy to be filed by Aug. 3. The proposed deadline is an effort to move quickly toward a plan for Reorganization, said an attorney representing the archdiocese.

“We’re trying to balance equitably the needs of all parties, including sexual abuse claimants,” said Charles Rogers, an attorney with Twin Cities-based law firm Briggs and Morgan.

The proposed deadline, or bar date, is nine months earlier than the end of Minnesota’s current window for its statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims, but an earlier deadline is necessary for the archdiocese and its creditors to complete a timely and mutually agreeable plan for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, Rogers said.

The proposal benefits both the archdiocese and claimants by allowing the archdiocese to conserve funds in the legal process, making more funds potentially available to help sexual abuse claimants, he added.

The Aug. 3 bar date is among a series of bar dates the archdiocese proposed as part of the Reorganization process; other bar dates affect claimants who are not alleging sexual abuse, such as vendors seeking compensation stalled by the archdiocese entering Reorganization. Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing the archdiocese’s Reorganization process, is expected to rule on the bar dates on or shortly after April 16.

Date important for plan

In the first hearing after the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief  Jan. 16, Judge Kressel ordered the Archdiocese, the insurance carriers and the committee representing the abuse claimants into mediation.

The parties have met more than 15 times, according to a progress report Briggs and Morgan filed March 19.

In order for the archdiocese and its creditors to move forward toward resolution with a consensual plan for Reorganization, the number of claimants must be first established and then each claim evaluated, which is only possible after the bar date, Rogers said.

“We’ve paid credence to the notion that moving expeditiously and efficiently would leave more funds on the table, potentially, to pay claims because then less money would be used in administrative expenses that run up each month as the case progresses,” he said.

He added: “If we were to leave the bar date at May 2016, that would be 16 months after the filing before we even understand the universe of claims, and when you’re trying to enter into a global resolution … all parties need to understand how many claims are out there, what types of allegations are being made [and] what is the nature of their damages.”

Efforts to reach out

In 2013, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a law lifting the statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse through May 25, 2016.However, if the archdiocese’s motion is granted, individuals holding claims of this type will be required to file with the bankruptcy court prior to the bar date in order to participate in any distribution in the bankruptcy case.

In an April 1 statement, Archbishop John Nienstedt said that Reorganization is expected to result “in the archdiocese contributing available resources to help in the healing of victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse while continuing the mission of the Catholic Church.”

He added: “The purpose of a bar date is to provide all parties with accurate information regarding the number and nature of claims. Timely bar dates add certainty and facilitate a speedier Reorganization process. We recognize the proposed bar dates are sooner than the end of the lifting of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse, so we will be extensively publicizing the approved date locally and nationally so all claimants will have a fair opportunity to participate in the process.”

“We continue to pray for all those hurt by sexual abuse, and find great comfort in this sacred Holy Week, where we as Catholics remember the last week of Jesus’ human life and celebrate his resurrection into eternal life,” Archbishop Nienstedt said.

The archdiocese’s legal counsel chose the Aug. 3 date after examining other diocesan bankruptcies, legal precedent and fairness to claimants, Rogers said.

When the claims bar date is set, those who say they are victims/survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy will have had nearly two years to file claims since the statute of limitations was lifted. The archdiocese is planning to reach out proactively to claimants who may have yet to file, through a campaign of notices, letters and advertisements in local and national Catholic and secular media, Rogers said.

The notices will include detailed instructions on how a person could make a claim.

“Everyone involved has a right to fairness and due process that we want to honor,” Rogers said.

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