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A Boy Suffers Horrific Sexual Abuse by Multiple Perpetrators While At LaSalle School, Albany, NY

La Salle School, Albany, NY

Photograph of Fr. Joseph Romano

Fr. Joseph Romano

Photograph of William Keyes

William H. Keyes

Note: Telephone interviews of Daniel Lewis or any of the attorneys can be arranged by contacting Craig Vernon at (208) 667-0683 or by email at cvernon@jvwlaw.net.

Daniel Lewis has filed a civil lawsuit against The Diocese of Albany, New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the LaSalle School, the Christian Brothers, and perpetrators William H. Keyes and Fr. Joseph R. Romano, two of the three predators LaSalle School employed to supervise and care for Lewis and the other boys who were residents there back in the 1980’s. A third abuser, Charles Burrell, is deceased. According to its website, the LaSalle School was founded in 1854 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers to serve abandoned, orphaned, and/or otherwise troubled boys.

As a ward of the State of New York, Daniel was removed from his family by OCFS and placed at LaSalle School at age 14. Working in cooperation, OCFS and LaSalle implemented a pilot foster care program and placed Daniel in the home of Charles B. Burrell. Immediately, Burrell began to sexually abuse Daniel. The sexual abuse continued, almost daily, for approximately a year, at which time it is believed the program abruptly ended and Daniel was returned to LaSalle.

While in Burrell’s home, Burrell frequently invited William H. Keyes to sexually assault Daniel and other boys in his home. Keyes is believed to have been the supervisor of the Lasalle’s prefects at that time. Keyes was arrested in April of 1985, convicted of promoting sexual performance by a child less than 16 years of age, and was sentenced to 42 months to seven years in state prison. He currently resides in Albany, New York, and is a registered sex offender.

When Daniel returned to live at LaSalle, he met Fr. Joseph R. Romano, a priest employed by the Diocese of Albany and by the School as the coordinator of religious education. Fr. Romano roamed the School’s dormitory in the evenings, socializing with the boys. He interacted with William Keyes who also worked at LaSalle. Not long after Daniel met this priest, Fr. Romano began to sexually assault him. In addition to suffering horrific sexual assaults by Fr. Romano, Daniel was forced to watch Romano as he made another boy give him oral sex.

Fr. Romano was eventually removed from the ministry in 2003, following credible allegations of sexual abuse against children. It is believed that Fr. Romano, who has never faced any criminal penalties for his sexual victimization of children, is now living the quiet life in Florida, an affront to his victims. This makes a civil case that much more important to Daniel Lewis.

Daniel files his lawsuit under a new New York law (Child Victim’s Act), that gives adult survivors of child sexual abuse until August 20, 2020 to file a civil lawsuit for past abuse. Daniel discusses how this lawsuit is empowering: “For years, this was my shame. By filing this lawsuit, my shame ends. It is time to figure out why LaSalle, the State of New York, and the Diocese of Albany, put (and kept) these sexual predators in a position of power and control over me and other vulnerable boys.”

“These men were supposed to take care of me; instead, they harmed me in the worst way. They stole my innocence and destroyed my trust. Even though this happened long ago, as I reflect back on my life, I wonder how much of my self-destructive behavior is linked to what happened when I was living at LaSalle under the care of these pedophiles,” Daniel said.

According to Daniel’s attorneys—Craig Vernon and Leander James of James, Vernon & Weeks, and Patrick Noaker of Noaker Law Firm LLC, the lawsuit alleges several counts of negligence against the Defendants who failed to protect him from years of sexual abuse by Burrell, Keyes and Fr. Romano, predators that had unfettered access to him at LaSalle.

“This case is very upsetting,” said attorney Craig Vernon. “For the sexual assaults to have happened over such a long period of time, smacks of neglect. Instead of protecting boys like Daniel, the Defendants put sexual predators in positions of power and control, allowing them ongoing access to vulnerable boys.”

Leander James, one of Daniel’s attorneys, adds: “Daniel is shining a spotlight on past wrongs. For many, the first step in healing is taking this important, yet difficult step of coming forward and demanding answers.”

Daniel’s attorneys recognize Daniel’s courage by filing this lawsuit under his full name, as abuse survivors have the right to file lawsuits under a pseudonym to protect their privacy.

“Daniel’s decision to go public with his story is a courageous act that will help other abuse survivors,” explains attorney Patrick Noaker. “He’s helping to de-stigmatize the shame that many survivors carry with them.”

“Preliminary investigation has revealed that there are likely many other abuse survivors from LaSalle out there. This appears to be just the tip of the iceberg of sexual abuse survivors at LaSalle.” Vernon added.

For more information about attorneys Craig Vernon and Leander James, see Attorneys. For Patrick Noaker, see Noaker Law.

More Than 600 Clergy Abusers Named in California

In California, there are more than 660 credibly accused Catholic clergy abusers, according to one organization that tracks the abuse. The list of abusers includes four high-ranking bishops among the list of priests accused of harming children.

Victims of sexual abuse in California now have more time to seek justice through the courts, thanks to a new law signed last month by California’s governor. Included in the list are bishops Tod D. Brown from the Fresno Diocese, and Juan Arzube, Roger Mahony and G. Patrick Ziemann from the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Attorneys at James Vernon & Weeks have teamed with California law firm Donahoo and Associates to help victim pursue their cases.

“The number of victims is staggering,” said Leander James of James Vernon & Weeks. “And we know survivors of child sexual abuse struggle to come forward. This is just the beginning.”

On Oct 13, California Gov. Gavin Newsome signed the law suspending the statute of limitations for three years beginning in Jan. 1, 2020, providing a window of opportunity for abuse survivors to bring past claims that have expired due to the statute of limitations. Survivors of child sexual abuse can now seek justice, no matter when their abuse occurred.

Going forward, the new law also gives survivors until the age of 40 or until five years from the discovery of the abuse to file claims. Previously, the limit was 26 years old or within three years of the discovery of the abuse.

California is among the latest states in recent years, such as New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Minnesota, to allow abuse victims more time to pursue civil cases. Abuse by Catholic clergy and Boy Scouts of America volunteers are a few institutions in California that have been seen large numbers of sex abuse victims, James said. In California alone, there are more than 660 credibly accused Catholic clergy abusers, according to one organization that tracks the abuse.

If you are a victim of abuse, call 888-667-0683 for a free consultation.

Below is a list of names of credibly accused Catholic clergy abusers.

Source: Bishop Accountability.

Rubin Abaya • Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera • Arturo Ahumada • Pierre Albalaa • Sebastian Altamirano Torres • Joseph F. Alzugaray • David E. Anderson • Roger Anderson • Aloysius Antlitz • Andreas Arias • Juan (Bp.) Arzube • Edmund Austin • Delfin Babilonia • Michael Stephen Baker • Frederick R. Balak • Victor Balbin • Felipe Baldonado • Kevin P. Barmasse • John Bauer • Gaspar Bautista • Christopher Berbena • Matthias A. Berumen • Honesto Bayranta Bismonte • Robert Boley • Robert Bond • Leland Boyer • John Lawrence Brennan • Lawrence Brown • Michael Daniel Buckley • Ronald Francis Burt • Ed Byrom • Honorato (Henry) Caboang • Samuel Charles Cabot • Lynn Richard Caffoe • James Cairns • Felix (Raymond) Calonge • Juan Cano • Cleve W. Carey • (Laurian) David Carriere • Michael J. Carroll (in Calif.) • Raul Carvajal Hernandez • Edward J. Casey • John Joseph Casey • Michael Joseph Casey • Willebaldo Castro • Camillus Cavagnaro • Vincent V. Cavalli • David Paul Chandler • Damien (Patrick) Chong • Gerald Chumik • Mario Cimmarrusti • Eugene J. Colosimo • Ozias Bailey Cook • Andres S. Corral • John V. Cosgrove • Patrick J. Cotter • R. David Cousineau • Daniel J. Cremins • Sean Cronin • Angel Cruces • Jose Luis Cuevas • Christopher Cunningham • Wallace J. Daley • John H. Dawson • John P. Deady • Donald DeFore • Harold J. DeJonghe • Harold F. DeLisle • James Devaney • Joseph B. Di Peri • William L. Diamond • Arwyn N. Diesta • Frederick Dittmar • Michael Son Trong Doan • Dan Dobbins • Edward J. Dober • Roger Doherty • John B. Doherty (Dougherty) • James E. Dolan • Thomas J. Dove • Francis Dowd • Thomas Duffin • Donald J. DuFour • Albert Joseph Duggan • Joseph Dunne • Donald Duplessius • Sebastian C. Elanjimannil • Andrew Gabriel Encinas • Thomas Patrick English • Mark Epperson • Mark A. Falvey • Clint Farabaugh • Donald G. Farmer • John V. Farris • Charles George Fatooh • Gerald Faue • Arthur (Arturo) N. Fernando • Walter Fernando • Gerald B. Fessard • James J. Fitzpatrick • Thomas Q. Fitzpatrick • Patrick Flannery • Vincent Stephen Flynn • George Foley • James Michael Ford • Dominic T. Gaioni • George Michael Gallagher • Jesus Garay • Christobal Garcia • Peter E. Garcia • Ramon Garcia • Richard Francis Garcia • Sergio E. Garcia • Denis Ginty • David F. Granadino • Philip L. Grill • James Grimes • Matteo (Mateo) Guerrero • Roderic M. Guerrini • George A. Gunst • Vincente Guzman • John Joseph Hackett • Clinton Vincent Hagenbach • Bernard Brian Hanley • Michael Joseph Haran • Paschal Hardy • Charles Harman/Harmon • Richard A. Hartman • Thomas E. Havel • Benjamin Hawkes • Gerald Heather • Richard Allen Henry • Alfred Hernandez • Stephen C. Hernandez • Patrick J. Hill • William Hollinger • Michael A. Hunt • John J. Hurley • Richard Hurley • Joseph James • Melvin P. James • Luis Jaramillo • Tilak A. Jayawardene • Emmanuel Jimenez-Pelayo • David (Dave) E. Johnson • Anthony Juarez • Robert Jesus Juarez • Stephen Kain • Philip Kavanaugh • Christopher Kearney • John Keeney • Matthew H. Kelly • Patrick M. Kelly • John M. Kenney • John F. Killeen • Sister Mary Joseph Killeen • Thomas F. King • Bruce J. Klikunas • Frank Kohlbeck • John Kohnke • Gustave R. (Gus) Krumm • Sylvio Lacar • Michael Lalor • Timothy R. Lane • David LaPierre • Fergus Lawless • Modesto Leon • Jerold W. Lindner • Theodore Llanos • Charles Loofborough • Richard A. Loomis • Joseph Lopez • Fernando Lopez Lopez • Larry Lorenzoni • Lawrence Joseph (LJ) Lovell • Denis Lyons • Juan Macias • Eugene MacSweeney • Roger Mahony (Bp) • Eugene A. Maio • Sylvester E. Mancuso • Thomas Reon Paul, Jr. Marshall • James Aloysius Martin • Ernest Martinez • Ruben D. Martinez • Richard M. Martini • Leonardo G. Mateo • Francisco Mateos • Charles Patrick Mayer • Vincent McCabe • Kevin McCarthy • Forrest McDonald • Daniel McDonough • Thomas McElhatton • James McGloin • Seán John McGrath • Patrick McHugh • Martin McKeon • Patrick H. McNamara • Jose Mejia Gonzales • Jose J. Mendez • William P. Messenger • Louis L. Meyer • Titian Jim (Athos) Miani • George Michael Miller • John Dennis Mitchell • Vincent Molthen • Alfred J. Monte • Michael Andre Moody • Raymond D. Morales • Ralph Murguia • Francis J. Murphy • Joseph L. Murphy • Daniel J. Murray • Jeffrey Newell • Michael Stephen Nocita • Cyril wankwo • John F. O’Byrne • Charles W. O’Carroll • Donal P. O’Connor • Patrick O’Dwyer • James F. O’Grady • Mark O’Leary • Martin O’Loghlen • Thomas E. O’Rourke • Javier Ochoa • Samuel Orellana Mendoza • Gary Pacheco • Mario Pacheco • Michael P. Pecharich • Daniel P. Peck • Robert H. Peguero • Amado Pena • Francisco Javier Perez • James Person • Louis V. Pick • Joseph D. Pina • Bernard Thomas Pleimann (Plieman) • Gerald John Plesetz • Stanislaus Poon • Thomas A. Porter • Joseph/Josef Prochnow/Procknow • Patrick Purcell • John C. Quatannens • Celestine Quinlan • Eleuterio Ramos • Joseph Franklin Reagan (Regan) • Patrick Reilly • Terence John Reilly • Nicholas Reina • Loren Riebe • James Richard Robinson • Ernest Rodie • Carlos Rene Rodriguez • Michael M. Roebert • Donald Patrick Roemer • William Roper • Fidel Rosas Flores • Dorian G. Rowe • Efrain Rozo Rincon • George Neville Rucker • Joseph Francis Ryan • Thomas Ryan • Alexander Salazar • Armando Salazar • John Anthony Salazar-Jimenez • Gabriel Salinas • Jose L. Sanchez • Juan Francisco Sanchez • Manuel Ontiveros Sanchez • Lawrence Sandstrom • Juan (John) Santillan • Sister Agnes Santomassimo • Richard Satterthwaite • Arulappan Savrianandam • Emmett Gilroy Schaller • Maurice Scheier • George M. Scott • Louis Selmo • Avdon (Audon) Serratos • Joe Sharkey • Joseph F. Sharpe • John R. Shepherd • Edward E. Shimmaly • Fidencio Simon Silva-Flores • Francis (Raymond E). Simon • Michael Sintef • Robert William Spader • Stephen Emmett Specialle (Speciale) • Matthew Michael Sprouffske • Joseph Stadtfeld • Louis G. Stallkamp • Thomas J. Sullivan • Carl Maurice Sutphin • Joseph Tacderas • Santiago L. Tamayo • Lukas Bao Teluma • Raymond (Jose) Tepe • Michael Terra • Tom Thing • Vance Zebulon Thorne • Carl D. Tresler • Valentine Tugade • Jerome Turba • Jose I. Ugarte • Christoper Van Liefde • Vincent Van ter Toolen • Pedro Vasquez • John Verhart • Henry Xavier Vetter • Gillmero Nemoria Villa Gomez • Ernesto Corral Villaroya • William S. Vita • Rudolph T. Vorisek • John H. Wadeson • James Joseph Walsh • Thomas Warren • Francis J. Weber • Wilfred Weitz • Michael Edwin Wempe • Gerald Wertz • John W. Wishard • Philip Mark Wolfe • G. Patrick Ziemann (BP)
John Bradley • Tod D. Brown (Bp) • Hermy Dave O. Ceniza • James Collins (in Fresno) • Raul Diaz • John Esquivel • Miguel Flores • Benjamin Gabriel • Robert Gamel • Louis Aloysius Garcia • Craig Harrison • Anthony G. Herdegen • Vincent A. O’Connell • Eric Swearingen
Phillip Abinate • Alberto (Orlando) Battagliola • Stuart Bede Campbell • Marcos Capistran Chavira • Thomas Condon • Antonio Cortes • Edward Crews • Patrick Daly • Vincent Dwyer • Juan Carlos Esquivel • Carl Faria • Edward Fitz Henry • Luis Garcia • Edward T. Haskins • Manuel Jimenez • Gregory Kareta • Scott McCarthy • Michael McDonald • Albert (Alberto) Mengon • Gilbert Meyer • Felix Migliazzo • Charles L. Moore • Thomas Neary • Colman O’Connor • Joseph Pacheco • John Pierson • Joseph Sheehan • Paul R. Valdez • John Velez • James Wisecaver
Jeffrey N. Acebo • Thomas Duong Binh-Minh • Vincent Ignatius Breen • Donald Eugene Broderson • Kenneth J. Cabral • Alexander Q. Castillo • James A. Clark • Phillip Colloty • Hilary Cooper • Virendra Coutts • George E. Crespin • Sidney J. Custodio • Pearse P. Donovan • Dennis Duffy • Donald W. Eagleson • Joseph A. Ferreira • Patrick Finnegan • George J. Francis • Robert E. Freitas • Adrian Furman • William S. Green • Joseph (Jesse) Gutierrez-Cervantes • Stephen M. Kiesle • Ronald J. LaGasse • Tarcisio D. Lanuevo • Cornelius P. Leehan • Gary M. Luiz • Bede McKinnon • Daniel McLeod • Hector David Mendoza Vela • Joaquin Moreno • Lawrence O’Brien • William Odom-Green • Robert F. Ponciroli • James E. Prindeville • Arthur A. (Arturo) Ribeiro • Anthony Slane • Gary B. Tollner • Ramon Varela • John Vas • Francis Verngren • Stephen (Steve) Whelan • Gordon Wilcox • Terrence Wong
Andrew Christian Andersen • Sofronio A. (Pon) Aranda • Gregory Atherton • Lawrence J. Baird • Franklin Buckman • Santino Casimano (Casamino) • John V. Coffield • Richard Delahunty • Sinon F. Falvey • Robert Foley • Michael A. Harris • Bertrand W. Horvath • Edgardo Arrunataegui Jimenez • John Knoernschild • John Peter Lenihan • John “Jack” W. Lord • Alexander Manville • Thomas Joseph Mohan • Dominic Nguyen • Gordon John Pillon • Timothy Ramaekers • Luis Eduardo Ramirez • John (Jon) E. Ruhl • Cesar Salazar • John A. Sheahan • Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong
Thomas G. Allender • Alejandro Arroyo • Gerardo Beltran Rico • Mario Blanco • Edward Boyle • Vincent Brady • James Casey • Robert Casper • Andrew Coffey • Malachy Conway • Hector Coria Gonzales • Pablo Cortes • John Crowley • Rodolfo Delgado • Thomas Dermody • John Dowling • Arthur A. Falvey • William Feeser • Oscar Figueroa • J. Patrick Foley • Francisco Javier Garcia • John Hannan • Jerome M. Henson • David Hernandez Cota • Francisco Hernandez-Tovar • William B. Hold • Michael Lynch • Jesus Magallanes • Robert (Bob) Marsicek • James Mennis • Vito Mistretta • James Thomas Monaghan • Jorge Moreno • Cornelius F. O’Connor • Uriel Ojeda • Z. Enrique Perez • Vernon Petrich • Jose Antonio Pinal Contellanos • Mario Blanco Porras • Michael Prouix • William Storan • Simon Twomey • Jose Luis Urbina • Murrough Wallace • Michael Walsh • Michael Walsh (California) • John “Casper” Watts
Saul Ayala • Edward Lawrence Ball • Roberto Barco • Joseph Bell • Gustavo Benson • Michael Bucaro • Alejandro Jose /Alex Castillo • Peter Covas • Owen da Silva • Daniel De Dominicis • Jesus Dominguez • Robert J. Donat • Kevin Dunne • Clifton Raymond Etienne • Joseph (Joe) Fertal • Anthony Martinez Garduno • Rudi Gil • Maximiliano Gomez Macouzet • J. Ernest/Ernest J. Hayes • Joseph Jablonski • Dennis Raymond Jost • Timothy F. Keppel • Robert Kurilec • Peter H. Luque • Peter McCormick • Howard Melzer • Paul Nguyen • Joseph R. Nunez • Louis G. Perreault • Esteban Trujillo • Bernard Waltos
John Beatty • James T. Booth • Sister Bridgette • Robert Buchanan • Arthur Carrillo • Jose Chavarin • Edito D’Amora • John Joseph Daly • Nelson Damasco • Luis Eugene De Francisco • Donald F. Doxie • Brent Eagen • Herman Francis Flynn • Michael French • Rudolph Galindo • James A. Ganahl • Paul Gill • Michael Higgins • Gary Michael Holtey • Richard L. Houck • Patrick J. Hughes • John Charles Keith • Robert S. Koerner • Adalbert (Albert) J. Kowalczyk • William Armstrong Kraft • Lawrence Kurlandski • George Lally • Justin Langille • Michael Victor Marron • Peter Joseph Marron • Malachy M. McGinn • Patrick Carl McNamara • Mark/Marc A. Medaer • Ricardo Mejia • Thomas Moloney • Paolino Montagna • Robert Daniel. Nikliborc • Patrick J. O’Keeffe • Emmanuel O. Omemaga • Daniel Polizzi • Nicholas Reveles • Franz Robier • Edward Anthony Rodrigue • David Roll • Joseph (Jose) Rossell • William R. Savord • Edward Augustine Sheehy • Gregory Sierra Sheridan • William D. Spain • Matthew J. Thompson • Victor Uboldi • William Valverde • Barry Vinyard
Peter Gomez Armstrong • James W. Aylward • Theodore Baquedano-Pech • Salvatore Billante • Roberto Bravo • Daniel E. Carter • Edmond G. Cloutier • Arthur Manuel Cunha • Bernard Dabbene • Harold Danielson • Charles Durkin • Hal Ellis • John P. Heaney • Gregory G. Ingels • Austin Peter Keegan • Daniel T. Keohane • Jerome Leach • Epiphanius Lewis • Philip E. McCrillis • John Moriarty • Guy Anthony Murnig • William S. Myers • John J. O’Connor • Patrick J. O’Shea • Dan (Danilo) Pacheco • Richard P. Presenti • Miles O’Brien Riley • Carl Anthony Schipper • Wellington Joseph “Brother Stan” Stanislaus • Jose Superiaso • Henry J. Trainor • Leo Donald Tubbs • Robert M. Van Handel • Milton T. Walsh • Peter Yost
Thomas Bettencourt • Edward Thomas Burke • Charles Leonard Connor • Joseph Dondero • William C. Farrington • Don D. Flickinger • Robert A. Gray • Arthur Harrison • Laurent Largente • Alexander C. Larkin • Angel Crisostomo Mariano • John Rodrigues Moniz • George Moss • Leonel C. Noia • Joseph T. Pritchard • Noel Senevirante • Phil Sunseri • Hernan Toro • Benedict Van der Putten
Anthony Bolger • John J. Brenkle • John S. Crews • Patrick Gleeson • Patrick A. Hannon • Michael Emmet Kelly • Donald Wren Kimball • Patrick Joseph McCabe • John A. Meenan • Francis E. Neville • Vincent O’Neill • Francisco Xavier Ochoa • Ted Oswald • Xavier Pallathuparambil • John K. Rogers • Wilfred L. Sheehy • Alfredo Sobalvarro • Gary Timmons • James Walsh • Bernard (Bernie) Ward • Ron Wiecek
Francis Arakai • Antonio Camacho • Didacus (Didachus) Clavell • Murty M. Fahy • Julio Cesar Guarin-Sosa • Michael E. Kelly • Editho Mascardo • Antonio Munoz • Oliver Francis O’Grady • Oscar (Oskar) Pelaez • Eduardo Perez Torrez • Leo Suarez • Ferdinand (Fernando) Villalobos

Diocese of Rochester Bankruptcy: What It Means for Abuse Survivors

By Leander James

What happened?

On September 12, 2019, the Diocese of Rochester, NY, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a non-profit corporation, it had the choice to file bankruptcy to deal with mounting lawsuits brought by survivors of clergy sexual abuse or to fight them in state court. It chose to file bankruptcy.

What is Chapter 11 bankruptcy?

Chapter 11 is a form of bankruptcy that allows the corporation to continue to operate provided it pays its creditors with available assets. In a Catholic diocese bankruptcy, this means that the diocese can continue to function, but it must gather together all the money, insurance and other available assets it has to compensate clergy sexual abuse victims. In its filing, the Rochester Diocese disclosed it has at least $50 to $100 million in assets. Dioceses often understate their assets when they file bankruptcy, so in our view, the assets available to compensate abuse survivors will likely be much greater.

Does the Diocese of Rochester bankruptcy mean the Diocese has no money to pay abuse survivor claims?

Absolutely not. Just the opposite; the Diocese has money, insurance, and other assets to substantially compensate survivors. Sexual abuse survivors who may have a claim and who want justice should file their claim in the bankruptcy case. Claims timely filed in past bankruptcies have resulted in significant settlements, and there is every reason to believe the same will occur in this bankruptcy.

Who may file a claim?

Any person sexually abused as a child (under the age of 18) at any time within the Diocese of Rochester by a priest, deacon, nun, brother or diocesan layperson may have a claim. Any person sexually abused as a child outside the Diocese by anyone acting for the diocese, including a diocesan priest or deacon, may have a claim. Others may have viable claims. When in doubt, a survivor should consult a knowledgeable attorney to determine their potential rights.

Is a bankruptcy claim confidential?

In past Catholic bankruptcy cases, judges have ordered that the identity of abuse survivors who file claims must be kept confidential. There is every reason to believe the confidentiality of claimant identities will be maintained in this bankruptcy. Further, the bankruptcy case is typically more confidential than a state lawsuit.

Why file a claim?

For empowerment, healing, justice, and meaningful compensation. In our experience, bringing a child sexual abuse claim is empowering and helps the survivor to heal from the past. None of us can wash away bad things that happen to us as children, but we can heal and move on. Bringing a claim furthers that process. Another reason to bring a claim is “strength in numbers.” The more claimants who come forward, the greater the strength of the abuse survivors in bankruptcy to obtain monetary compensation and non-monetary terms for the protection of children.

What can abuse survivors accomplish through bankruptcy?

Survivors can and should expect to accomplish a great deal in bankruptcy. They will be represented by a Creditor Committee of abuse survivors who will direct the bankruptcy litigation and ultimately negotiate a settlement. Settlements in past bankruptcies have included not only tens of millions of dollars to compensate abuse survivors, but have importantly included non-monetary terms for the future protection of children and respect of abuse survivors. A good example of this type of settlement is the Northwest Jesuit bankruptcy, where the settlement provided for $161.1 million for abuse survivors and required the Jesuits to adhere to 23 non-monetary demands. You can learn more about that settlement here: https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/mar/26/jesuits-to-pay-victims-of-abuse/.

How do abuse survivors file their claims in the Bankruptcy?

Abuse survivors file their claims in the bankruptcy court by filing a “Proof of Claim” document. In most cases, the attorney will file this document for the survivor. The Proof of Claim should be filled out fully and correctly. It must be filed before the “Bar Date”—the deadline set by the court for the filing of proofs of claim. The proof of claim document in this case has not yet been created. One will be approved by the bankruptcy judge, then made available to abuse survivors (claimants). The bar date in this case has not yet been set. The judge will determine the bar date after notice to all parties who will have an opportunity to present their arguments to the judge regarding the appropriate date to use.

What is the attorney’s role in bankruptcy?

Attorneys who represent abuse survivors protect their client’s rights and shepherd their claim through the bankruptcy process. Representation includes working with the attorney for the creditor (survivor) committee to assure the diocese and its insurance companies amass all available money required under the law to compensate abuse survivors. Our representation additionally includes advocating for the respect of abuse survivors and non-monetary changes for the protection of children, because we have found over the years that our clients want to achieve these goals, and we strongly believe in them. What should I look for in an attorney to represent me? An abuse survivor should look for an attorney whom they trust and who has experience in Catholic bankruptcy cases. There are many types of attorneys out there, but very few have been through Catholic bankruptcies before. Knowledge of that process, in our view, is essential for effective representation.

If you believe you may have a claim, contact us today for a confidential consultation regarding your rights in the Diocese of Rochester Bankruptcy.

Changes in New Jersey Law and a Victim Compensation Program Bring New Hope to Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

By Daniel Keyes

Photo of Roman Catholic Church (outside)On Friday May 10, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that expands the state’s statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims. Most notably, the bill creates a two-year window for victims of sexual abuse to bring claims against their perpetrators, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. This new law goes into effect on December 1, 2019.

What this new law means for victims of child sexual abuse is that they now have the opportunity to seek justice against their abusers, and potentially organizations that allowed the abuse to occur, through the civil court system even if the abuse occurred decades ago. The ability to bring such claims against perpetrators of child sexual abuse is often a vital part of the healing process for the survivors. Additionally, actions against organizations that allowed the sexual abuse to occur are necessary to cause those organizations to change and update their policies to prevent such horrible acts from occurring in the future.

In what is most certainly a response to the new two-year New Jersey window statute described above, the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Trenton and Paterson finalized a program funded by the Catholic Church designed to compensate victims of child sexual abuse by clergy.

The program, entitled the Independent Victim Compensation Program or IVCP, allows individuals to file claims against diocesan priests. Claims are then reviewed by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camile S. Biros, who have been hired by the dioceses and given authority to independently evaluate claims and offer compensation to victims in exchange for a release from the victim.

Registration for all claimants in the IVCP program opened on June 15, 2019, and claimants must register with the program no later than October 31, 2019.

The IVCP program described above is completely optional and its claimants have the ultimate choice to accept any award offered or reject an award and pursue their claims through the civil court system.

While there are pros and cons to seeking justice in both the civil court system and the IVCP, the ability to file a claim in either system, or ultimately in both, is a welcomed opportunity for victims of child sexual abuse. The opportunity allows victims to achieve justice, receive some level of compensation, further their healing process, and protect current and future children from abuse.

Our attorneys have successfully represented hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse in civil court and various victim compensation programs throughout the United States. If you are a victim of child sexual abuse, our attorneys are ready to help you navigate the available avenues of justice and find healing.

Diocese of Rochester Ends Its Compensation Program

The Diocese of Rochester issued a statement on March 14th, 2019 stating that it would no longer accept new applicants for its reconciliation and compensation program. James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A. has represented most of the survivors of clergy abuse who have used this program to resolve their claims without costly litigation. This news does not foreclose other legal options available to survivors.

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/03/14/catholic-abuse-rochester-diocese-ends-child-priest-abuse-compensation-program/3164407002/

If you are a survivor of clergy abuse and would like more information on what claims may be available to you, please contact us.

Sex Abuse Expert Discusses the Challenges of Coming Forward

By Craig Vernon

Having represented many hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse, the attorneys at JVW applaud this reporting explaining why survivors do not report sexual abuse or wait to report until much later in life.  Understanding this phenomena is important to parents to protect their children and for all of us to realize that so many people are suffering in silence because of horrific abuse suffered as children or early in live as a vulnerable adult.   When survivors come forward, let us listen, and not ask “why did it take so long.”

CBS – “‘No’ is the easiest lie to tell”: A child sex abuse expert on the challegnes of coming forward:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sex-abuse-expert-on-the-challenges-of-coming-forward/

The Passing of the Child Victims Act Brings New Claims

“For 13 years now, advocates like myself and others had been trying to get the Child Victims Act passed to get some access to justice for sex abuse survivors in the state. Each survivor heals in their own way, but healing always involves empowerment. Without the Child Victims Act, they had no access to legal process and the healing it can afford.” – Leander James

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/02/28/catholic-priest-abuse-rochester-ny-child-victims-act/2949197002/

The passing of the Child Victims Act in New York State has allowed new claims to come forward, and James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A., with an office right in Rochester, is ready to help empower survivors in their claim. 

Do New York State Catholic Compensation Programs Bring Justice and Healing to Child Sexual Abuse Survivors?

By Leander James

In 2016, faced with mounting political and legal pressure, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan, announced the creation of an “Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program” (IRCP) to compensate individuals sexually abused as children by clergy within the Diocese.  Most dioceses in New York State have followed suit by creating their own programs or dusting off similar, past programs.  Each diocese establishes the rules for its program, and the diocese appoints and pays the Claims Administrator, who runs the program.  The control each diocese exerts over its program raises questions about whether they are independent, fair, just or even beneficial to survivors.  We have been asked questions like:

“Are these programs just another political and PR move by the Roman Catholic Church bishops in New York to boost their image and forestall passage of the Child Victims Act?”

“Could they be a PR move, a political move and beneficial to survivors?”

“Should I enter the program?”

These are legitimate questions that I will discuss in this blog based upon our experience processing more than 80 claims through these programs around the state and our experience litigating hard-fought battles with Catholic dioceses and religious orders throughout the United States over many years.

Programs are a product of politics and legal pressure

There is no doubt in our mind that these programs are a product of politics surrounding New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA) and legal pressure generated by cases our legal team and others have prosecuted around the United States uncovering Roman Catholic Clergy child sexual abuse and bishop complicity.  Only secondarily are these programs motivated, if at all, by pastoral care and a desire to “reconcile” with survivors.

A more skeptical but reasonable view in our opinion is that the benefits these programs bring to survivors are byproducts of the bishops’ self-serving goals to improve their image, influence state politics and avoid lawsuits.  We acknowledge and respect the view of those who hold the opinion that Cardinal Dolan and the bishops created these programs purely out of pastoral care for clergy sexual abuse survivors.  But based on our experience, we don’t think that is the case.

Yet, we also know that these programs have, without a doubt, brought meaningful compensation and closure to many survivors. Whether this is by design, a byproduct, or both, can be debated.  But we believe an honest assessment of these programs must begin with a discussion of the impure (or not entirely pure) motivation for their creation.

The fact is the Archbishop and bishops of New York State long opposed passage of New York’s Child Victims Act, a law that would bring justice and healing to child sexual abuse survivors and accountability to those responsible for abuse (including New York bishops).  In the latter 2000s it became apparent that their opposition to the CVA was not shared by their “flocks” or the state populace.    According to a Siena College poll in January 2018, 77% of New York Catholics and 76% of New Yorkers supported passage of the bill.

In 2016, faced with growing support for the CVA (which at this hour has passed both State Houses with only a three-vote opposition and sits on Governor Cuomo’s desk for signing), the Archbishop announced his “Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program” in the press:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he was inspired by Pope Francis in forming the program and hoped it would become a model for other dioceses to help victims heal. “I wish I would have done this quite a while ago,” he said in an interview. “I just finally thought: ‘Darn it, let’s do it. I’m tired of putting it off.’”

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/nyregion/new-york-archdiocese-compensation-sexual-abuse-victims.html

Even the most ardent supporters of Cardinal Dolan surely recognized the hypocrisy in this statement.  He could have created the program at any time, but chose to do so then to 1) send a message to the Legislature that it did not have to pass the CVA because the Catholic Church in New York would clean up its own act, and 2) divert attention away from the heinous acts of perpetrators and bishops by turning the focus on helping the victims “heal.”  It was a masterful, if cynical, political and PR move.

As one critic posted on my Facebook page:

Of course some people are going to have to choose the compensation fund, of course they are. That’s the position they’ve been put in. We all know and understand that, and the reasons why. The RCC created those reasons when they connived and lobbied for the statute of limitations laws, when they created survivors and victims in the first place! And now, they’re benefiting from those reasons as well. Because the compensation fund is there, making lemonade out of lemons, and it benefits them much more than having every individual taking them to trial, or better yet, everybody getting together in one giant massive lawsuit against the organization itself. They know this.

https://www.facebook.com/leander.james.7

We believe there is another self-serving reason for these programs beyond politics and legal pressure.  Cardinal Dolan and the bishops created these programs, we believe, to prevent damning evidence from becoming public.  Church leaders don’t want their dirty files aired or testimony given that shows they knew they were exposing pedophiles and ephebophiles to unwitting parents and children.  They don’t want us to know that priests they held out as sacred and safe were wolves among the sheep. Letting this information become public would undermine their claim to moral authority and that of the entire Church.  By creating their own compensation programs, Church leaders have successfully stifled disclosure of dirty information, but this came at a cost, and there are trade-offs that are beneficial to many survivors which we discuss more thoroughly, below.

In sum and at the outset, we acknowledge the impure and self-serving motives behind the recent creation of Roman Catholic compensation programs in New York State.  We share the frustration, anger and even outrage that it has taken so long for bishops to address victims and that there are victims at all, for that matter.  But stabbing an accusatory finger at the bishops’ impure motives does little to answer the pressing question whether these programs are beneficial to survivors.  Despite their origin, can these programs help survivors?

New York State compensation programs bring justice and healing to some, but not to others

The short answer is:  yes, they help some survivors.  To begin with, these programs provide survivors some degree of empowerment.  The programs are voluntary; the survivor chooses whether to enter them or pursue a lawsuit directly.  After entering, the survivor can withdraw at any time and retain their legal rights.  If offered compensation, the survivor has control whether they want to accept the award and give up legal rights or reject it and file a lawsuit.  The survivor has control over what information they provide and whether they want any information to be public. The programs provide for one-sided confidentiality; the diocese maintains confidentiality, while the survivor is free to publish what they want.

Once the CVA passes, survivors will be able to file lawsuits and potentially win more (or less) than what they will be offered in these programs.  However, lawsuits are not for everyone.  They take longer, as much as four years or more, while the average compensation claim resolves in months. Some cases will not survive a lawsuit. For example, the survivor has a short life expectancy and is unlikely to outlive the lawsuit, the survivor does not want to be subjected to intrusive discovery, the survivor’s emotional state is too frail to withstand a lawsuit, the survivor does not want to be in litigation for years, or weaknesses in the case make it vulnerable to dismissal (in which case the survivor gets nothing).

Some survivors are living in silence and pain, and their circumstances are not suited to lawsuits and the courtroom.   They need another way to seek justice, recompense, and healing, and they need to move on.  Doing so in a program where we can advocate for the survivor and protect their rights has resulted in meaningful and even life-changing compensation, healing and closure.

In our view, it is generally better for a survivor to have the power of choice than no choice; it is better for them to be able to choose to resolve their claim through a confidential program or a lawsuit. For some, a lawsuit is the way to go. For others, a confidential program is best. The alternative is that a survivor of abuse has no choice and could only seek recompense through a lawsuit subject to their burden of proof, the defendants’ defenses, time and possible dismissal.

Which brings us to important trade-offs Bishops have made to attract survivors to these programs; because, after all, their programs are failures if they cannot attract survivors.  They have funded them with tens of millions of dollars.  They have removed or lessened burdens of proof in exchange for the diocese not having to produce documents and information.  They have abandoned legal defenses, including the statute of limitations defense.  They abide by the decision of the Claims Administrator.  These are important trade-offs.  The frank truth is that some cases, no matter how righteous, have proof problems, are vulnerable to defenses and will be dismissed.  Nobody can be sure which cases these are until months and even years into the lawsuit.

On the other hand, some survivors find empowerment and healing through a lawsuit, and they have strong legal proofs and claims.  Whether we file their lawsuit in the name of a “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” or the survivor’s name, they gain strength from showing they will hold those who caused their abuse accountable in court.  They have the emotional fortitude and life expectancy to justify fighting on to expose their wrongdoers and obtain a potentially large settlement or judgment.  They understand and accept the risks-rewards of litigation.

Each survivor heals in their own way.  Whether the survivor seeks recovery through a program or a lawsuit, all are seeking empowerment and emotional healing.  They are seeking a process to rid themselves of the dark hand of child abuse that has reached out over the years and has been clawing at them, holding them down, holding them back.  They seek protection of children.  They know that when the Diocese pays significant compensation to them it is:

  1. a tangible acknowledgment of the Diocese’s wrongdoing
  2. a recognition of their harm
  3. money they can use to improve their lives; and
  4. a deterrent: for dioceses and bishops who pay money for the harm they caused are deterred from causing similar harm in the future.

Sure, no amount of money can fully compensate a sexually abused child.  But that is no excuse for not holding wrongdoers accountable and having them compensate their victims.  All these goals can be achieved in a program or a lawsuit.  Which process is best for the individual survivor depends on the survivor, the facts of their case, the law and the program.

What to look for in the program

We find that the degree to which any one program helps survivors is largely determined by:   1) scope of qualifying claims; 2) independence of the claims administrator 3) the claims process and 4) amount of the award.  Programs vary in these essential areas (and programs are changing over time).

Whether a claim qualifies for the program is either determined by the diocese or the Claims Administrator, and there’s a difference.  For example, the Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre deny access categorically to claimants who otherwise have viable legal claims against them.  They shut the door to those abused by a religious order priest, even if he is working in the diocese, under the bishop, and doing diocesan work on diocesan property.  By contrast, the Rochester Diocese so far has let the Claims Administrator determine whether a claim qualifies, even if the abuse is not perpetrated by one of its diocesan priests.  The point here is that if the program does not allow the claimant to even submit a claim based upon arbitrary, non-legal concepts, then that survivor can’t even get their foot in the door of the program.  We have argued that arbitrary, non-legal criteria denying access to survivors is not in the best interests of the dioceses (and it certainly isn’t for the survivors), because they will now be subject to lawsuits on these claims once the CVA is signed into law and the window period opens.  [See our upcoming blog on the CVA and Window for more details].  Put another way, the claims do not go away if denied by the program; they become a potential lawsuit.

The second factor, independence of the Claims Administrator, is crucial to a functioning program.  By “independence” we are not necessarily referring to whether the diocese or bishop directly or indirectly controls the individual they hire as the Claims Administrator, although this is a possibility.  A claims administrator may not be able to entirely divorce themselves from the fact they are being compensated by the diocese; the administrator might fear that if they give too big an award they will be fired.  Other biases can have strong influence over a decision-maker who does not guard against them.  All decision makers come to a decision with bias, be they a juror, a judge or a private claims administrator.  However, some do not appreciate their bias and are therefore unable to guard against it, and therein lies the danger.  Other potential biases include a claims administrator’s religious or political ties to the Catholic church (which can cut both ways), or their belief the bishop or diocese is motivated solely by goodwill rather than more self-serving motives.  There are others.

In some cases, the bias, good or bad, may affect an otherwise objective claims administrator’s view of an individual claimant or claim.  For example, some may have the bias that the younger the child is at the time of abuse the greater their damage.  This may or may not be true, depending on the case.  Others may be biased against a claimant who has a criminal history, even when that history has a causal link to the abuse.  Thus, the analysis of a Claims Administrator’s independence goes deeper than just the individual claims administrator and their ties to the diocese.

The Claim Process

The claim process, in our view, has a profound effect on the survivor’s healing and the outcome of the claim.  We believe the best process involves the Claim Administrator hearing from the survivor in person in a confidential and protected setting.

We have encountered wide disparity between the claims processes of dioceses.  For example, in the Archdiocese, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre, the Claims Administrator (they use the same one) discourages in-person interviews of the survivor and, in our estimation, gives them little weight when they do occur.  The Diocese of Rochester Claims Administrator, on the other hand, encourages such interviews and is fully prepared for, and engaged in, the interview process.  [See our blog “View from Inside the Rochester Diocese’s Sexual Abuse Compensation Program” for more on this].

There is no question in our experience that any system that evaluates a child sexual abuse survivor’s claim without hearing directly from the survivor, face-to-face, is badly flawed.  Hearing from the survivor is necessary to any meaningful understanding of the nature of the abuse and its effects on the survivor.  To the extent a claims administrator is concerned with “corroborating evidence,” as some seem almost obsessed with, hearing from the abuse survivor in person powerfully establishes the truth of the claim, and should remove any doubt the abuse occurred.  We have seen even jaded Church attorneys admit the validity of the claim after hearing from the survivor.  Survivor testimony is powerful.

Amount of the award

Money makes a difference.  Nearly all survivors for whom we have accessed recovery have used the money in a positive way to transform their lives and often the lives of their families for the better.  How much are the awards in these programs?  Awards in the Archdiocese and Diocese of Brooklyn have generally ranged from $50,000 to $500,000, with some outliers.  Less in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  In the Diocese of Buffalo, the awards have ranged from $40,000 to $400,000.  We are currently awaiting the first awards in the Diocese of Rochester program, which we will report on soon.

When comparing values in these programs with values that may be obtained through litigation and trial, there is no question that litigation and trial can result in much higher recoveries.  But they can also result in lower recoveries and claims being dismissed and receiving nothing.   Not all claims in the programs are compensated.  While good investigation and advocacy can minimize claim denials, some get denied.  But even these retain their right to file a lawsuit.

Conclusion

In our experience, submitting a claim into one of the Catholic compensation programs in the State of New York can result in significant healing and recovery with little or no down-side.  Doing so allows the survivor to potentially receive an offer of settlement that they can accept or reject.  If they reject it, they retain their legal right to pursue a lawsuit.  Having the option of entering a confidential program and potentially receiving meaningful compensation or filing a lawsuit gives the survivor the power to choose which path they want to take to resolve their claim.  Choice is better than no choice.

Good investigation, advocacy and claim presentation in the program increases the likelihood of compensation and maximizes recovery.  Protecting survivor rights, giving them a voice and assuring the claims experience is as confidential and comfortable as possible furthers survivor healing and closure.  While these programs are not for all, many survivors have achieved significant, even life-changing, compensation, healing, and closure and have moved on with their lives as thrivers.

View From Inside The Rochester Diocese’s Sexual Abuse Compensation Program

By Leander James

The Diocese of Rochester, NY, has recently instituted a confidential, non-binding program to compensate sexual abuse survivors of any age who were victimized as a child by an actor within the Diocese of Rochester.  Our team has recently completed the first evaluations within the program.  This blog is meant to give you an insider understanding of what we have learned so far, and how this program compares to other dioceses’ programs within the State of New York.

While most, but not all, dioceses have programs, we have encountered substantial differences between them with the more than 80 cases we have processed in programs around the State of New York.  The Diocese of Rochester Compensation Program (DRCP) differs substantially from compensation programs of other dioceses.  The primary differences we have learned involve:  1) scope of qualifying claims; 2) independence of the claims administrator and 3) the claims process.

First the similarities.

All programs we have encountered have a Claims Administrator that runs the program outside the formal legal process. All are non-binding, meaning the abuse survivor can accept or reject the amount offered by the Claims Administrator. If the survivor accepts the offer, they must give up legal rights. If the survivor rejects the offer, they keep all their legal rights. All programs have one-sided confidentiality, meaning the diocese will maintain confidentiality of survivors and their information, but will not restrict survivors from disclosing publicly what they want to disclose. All programs have six stages: 1) submission of a claim form; 2) a determination if the claim qualifies for the program; 3) claims presentation by the survivor or their attorney; 4) evaluation of the claim; 5) a non-binding determination whether the claimant will be offered compensation and, if so, the amount offered; and 6) acceptance or rejection of the offer. Claimants who are not offered compensation or who reject the offer retain their right to file a lawsuit. Finally, all programs we have encountered have provided meaningful compensation and justice to some, but not all, survivors who have submitted claims. [For a larger discussion of the various compensation programs see our upcoming blog “Do New York State Catholic Compensation Programs Bring Justice and Healing to Child Sexual Abuse Survivors?].

But that’s where the similarities end. Of the more than 80 claims for child sexual abuse survivors we have processed through various diocese programs in the State, eight of these were the first claims to be processed in the DRCP, in January 2019. While we await the offers on those eight cases, we can report that we see important differences in Rochester’s program.

Determination if the claim qualifies.

To its credit, the DRCP so far has a broader acceptance of claims qualifying for its program; it has cast the net of potential justice wider. First, the DRCP has not arbitrarily disqualified claimants based upon when they disclosed their abuse to the Diocese, as some other dioceses have done with only “Phase I” programs. Second, it has not created artificial distinctions that reject claims outright, even when those claims would qualify for a lawsuit. While the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, the Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre have boasted that their programs compensate child sexual abuse survivors, the truth is that in the fine-print of their program criteria they reject outright many abuse survivors whose claims would otherwise be legally recognized, such as abuse perpetrated by a religious order priest who was working for the diocese in a diocesan parish at the time of abuse. [Our team has been working to encourage the Archdiocese, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre to remove these arbitrary restrictions. If they don’t, they will be subject to lawsuits under the New York Child Victims Act for these claims.]

By contrast, the DRCP does not appear so far to use artificial distinctions to disqualify outright claims of abuse by actors within the Diocese of Rochester. Indeed, the DRCP allows the Claims Administrator to make his own determination whether such claims will be accepted. This provides for greater potential access to justice within the Program for many survivors who would otherwise be arbitrarily disqualified.

Claims presentation

Unlike programs of the Archdiocese, Diocese of Brooklyn and Diocese of Rockville Centre, whose Claims Evaluator discourages in-person interviews of the survivor, the DRCP Claims Evaluator encourages such interviews. This is a vast difference; for the best evidence of the nature and extent of abuse and its damaging effects on the survivor’s life is the survivor’s own testimony. Any system that evaluates a child sexual abuse survivor’s claim without hearing directly from the survivor, face-to-face, is badly flawed, in our view.

But the DRCP Evaluator, the Hon. Justice Lunn (Ret.), did more than just hear, face-to-face, the statements of our first eight claimants. He came prepared, having carefully reviewed our advocacy packet–our investigative reports, evidence, expert reports and memorandum of the case. He provided a comfortable, confidential and informal setting for our clients to tell their true stories without a time limit. He did so by allowing their counsel (us) to present their case informally, without any person from the Rochester Diocese being present to object or obstruct. He allowed us to ask our clients questions designed to illicit their true stories and to highlight relevant facts and information any evaluator would need. He allowed us to bring material witnesses to the hearing to share their testimonies, including a mental health provider. He was fully engaged, often interjecting with insightful questions aimed at better understanding the nature of the abuse and its effects on the survivor. We can say with certainty that in our experience this interview process provided the survivor with greater dignity, compassion and emotional healing than other programs that do not allow or encourage the survivor to informally testify.

Independence of the Evaluator

The DRCP Evaluator, Justice Lunn, in our professional assessment, has proven to be more independent than evaluators in some of the other programs. This is just our opinion, but we’ve processed many claims and have watched the issue of independence closely. The true independence of the evaluator is critical to a well-functioning program. Without independence, the program risks losing credibility with the survivor and the public.

Tentative Conclusion

It remains to be seen whether these distinctions of the Diocese of Rochester Compensation Program will influence the amount of the DRCP awards; however, it is difficult in our view to imagine that they would not. According to Justice Lunn, the awards will be rendered no later than 30 days from the date of the hearings. The first survivors to ever be evaluated in the DRCP will therefore receive their awards within the coming weeks. Stay tuned.