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THE STATE | Q&A

Hundreds of cases remain in litigation

December 02, 2006|Peter Y. Hong and John Spano | Times Staff Writers

How did the church sex abuse scandal emerge?

Media reports in January 2002 revealed that Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law had knowingly transferred priests with histories of molesting young people, moving them among numerous parishes. Law resigned in December 2002. In 2003, the Boston Archdiocese reached an $85-million settlement with 552 people who said they or their children were molested by priests.

More than a dozen prosecutors across the country convened grand juries to investigate possible crimes by priests and church officials, though no bishops have been indicted. Thousands of civil lawsuits against dioceses followed, including more than 500 pending in Los Angeles.

How do the 45 claims settled Friday by Los Angeles differ from other pending suits?

The cases settled Friday resolve only allegations of abuse in years during which the archdiocese was either not insured or was underinsured -- cases that took place before 1954 and after 1986.

Who will pay the settlement?

The diocese, insurers and religious orders will pay.

Will parish operations be cut to cover the cost?

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Friday that the diocese had set aside money for the settlement, so parishes will not be otherwise affected.

Are any of the priests in the settlement active in ministry?

Yes. Edward Dober, Richard Martini and Samuel Orellana denied allegations raised in civil lawsuits. They were investigated by the archdiocese, which found no grounds to remove them from ministry.

What is the status of the remaining Los Angeles suits?

Seventy-seven of the 562 total have now been settled: 45 by Mahony on Friday; 7 by the Carmelite order last month; and 25 by the Franciscan order in March. Dozens of lawyers have spent more than three years trying to settle all the cases instead of preparing for trial. Last month, attorneys for the victims began investigating more than 100 of those claims after a judge released them from a freeze that had been in effect during the years of negotiations. Starting Dec. 12, a judge will begin hearing defense challenges to the claims in many of the cases -- the first step toward resolution by trial, rather than by settlement.

What is the status of the L.A. County district attorney's criminal investigation?

The district attorney's office is continuing to investigate possible crimes by clergy and church officials.

peter.hong@latimes.com

john.spano@latimes.com

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