Parties trying to settle Guam’s 200-plus clergy sex abuse claims are bracing for the impact of the federal government’s partial shutdown and reports of the Boy Scouts of America’s consideration of bankruptcy filing, lawyers told the court Thursday.
The Archdiocese of Agana filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday to reorganize and pay off clergy sex abuse claims.
The Boy Scouts of America is a named defendant in more than 130 of the Guam clergy sex abuse cases because one of its scout masters, the now deceased priest Louis Brouillard, was accused of raping, sexually abusing and molesting boys on church grounds and during Boy Scouts activities on Guam for about three decades.
More: Archdiocese of Agana files for bankruptcy to pay off clergy sex abuse claims
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Attorney Delia Lujan Wolff, counsel for more than 120 clergy sex abuse plaintiffs, told judges they’re waiting to learn more about the Boy Scouts of America’s ongoing consideration of filing bankruptcy protection as a result of growing costs from sex abuse lawsuits.
Attorney Patrick Civille, counsel for the Boy Scouts of America, said he hasn’t received any word from his clients about a bankruptcy filing plan.
Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Michael B. Surbaugh, in a December letter to employees, said the organization was working with experts to explore all options so that Boy Scouts programming continues uninterrupted amid growing costs from sex abuse lawsuits.
Jeff Sulzbach, scout executive and chief executive officer for the Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts of America, on Thursday said they will respond at a later time to questions.
In the Guam clergy sex abuse cases, the Boy Scouts, Sisters of Mercy and the Capuchins settled with some of the plaintiffs and the claims against them were voluntarily dismissed. But the claims against other defendants, such as the archdiocese, remain.
The meeting of creditors in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy filing may have to be pushed back because the U.S. Trustee in Hawaii is covered by the shutdown.
In the so-called 341 meetings, the U.S. Trustee will be asking the archdiocese financial questions and the creditors will have an opportunity to ask questions with the archbishop and key finance people in the archdiocese. It’s held in court but isn’t a court proceeding.
There is still no telling when the partial shutdown over border wall funding can be lifted.
Only Honolulu-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis Ching isn’t temporarily furloughed, and his office can’t incur additional expenses.
“It’s a concern but we just have to wait and see like all of you, and everybody else, and wait for Congress and the president to do something,” the archdiocese’s bankruptcy attorney, Ford Elsaesser, said.
The U.S. Trustee appoints the committee of abuse claimants, who can hire their own bankruptcy lawyer.
Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes was in federal court for Thursday’s initial hearing on the bankruptcy and related routine motions filed.
Catholic schools, parishes open
U.S. District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood approved, on an interim basis, the archdiocese’s motion that would allow it continued access to its $5.3 million worth of accounts in Bank of Guam.
Access to these accounts allows Catholic schools, parishes and other archdiocesan operations to continue without interruption, while the archdiocese goes through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. All cases against the archdiocese are stayed under the bankruptcy law.
The bankruptcy filing hearing followed a joint status conference for the Guam clergy cases. The next joint status conference is set for April 25.