Church abuse case racks up $5.6M in legal fees, yet nowhere near resolution


By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

The sex abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Agana has incurred a total of $5.6 million in legal expenses over three years, yet negotiators remain stuck in a deadlock.


“This case has gone on for far too long,” Chief Federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said, frustrated by the parties’ failure to amend their court filings despite repeated extensions granted by the court.

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“While the court appreciates the parties’ efforts for the past seven weeks in appearing before the Honorable Robert Faris for mediation conferences, the court is disappointed in the parties’ inability to meet the court's original and amended timelines,” Tydingco-Gatewood said in an order released today.


“Meanwhile, the survivors continue to wait for the resolution of this case and have not received any payments from the estate,” she added.


The church faced civil suits from nearly 280 individuals who alleged they were raped and molested by priests and other members of the clergy from the 1950s to as late as 2013.


In December, the archdiocese, which filed a bankruptcy case in 2019, proposed a $36 million payment plan to compensate the church abuse survivors.

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In a landmark decision that ultimately lifted the disputed properties’ shield from claims against the church, Tydingco-Gatewood ruled last month that parishes and Catholic schools are owned by the archbishop of Agana.


The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in 2019, listing $22 million worth of real property assets and $45 million in liabilities.


In the bankruptcy filing, the church left out the parishes and Catholic schools from the list of its assets. The archdiocese owns 10 Catholic schools and 40 parishes around the island.


The ruling has paved the way for claimants' access to the disputed assets.


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The court originally set a March 25 deadline for the archdiocese to submit an amended list of assets and come up with a new settlement offer.


The court later extended the deadline to April 22. Today, the judge agreed to further extend the deadline to May 6.


“This will be the last time the court will extend the deadline for the filing of any amended plans and amended asset disclosure and compensation plan for the sex abuse survivors,” Tydingco-Gatewood said.


She reminded both parties that as the case dragged on, it racked up legal fees costing over $5 million from January 2019 through November 2021, and over $600,000 for non-legal fees.


“This does not include any professional fees accrued beginning December 2021 to present,” the judge said.





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