Los Angeles

Judge Dismisses Part of Nuisance Suit Filed by Clergy Abuse Victim

A Los Angeles judge dismissed part of a nuisance lawsuit alleging that Catholic clergy have concealed decades of child sexual abuse, court papers obtained Wednesday show.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court issued her ruling April 17 after having previously taken plaintiff Thomas Emens' case under submission following oral arguments.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued a statement regarding the ruling.

"In this case, the court looked at eight instances of disclosure or non-disclosure of information that were alleged to create a nuisance," the statement read. "She found that five of them were an attack on the right of free speech. She also found that those five instances involving protected speech were invalid because Emens could not show the existence of a nuisance and they were dismissed."

Because the judge left the other three matters open to further proceedings, the Archdiocese, the California Catholic Conference and other California dioceses are considering whether to appeal her decision on those three instances, according to the statement.

Emens maintains he suffered emotional distress as a result of clergy abuse. But according to the judge's ruling, Emens failed to show his emotional distress was different from that felt by other victims of Catholic clergy abuse, by parents who let their children interact with priests without supervision or from Catholics in general.

"As plaintiff has not established a probability of prevailing on the merits in his causes of action for private nuisance and public nuisance, his civil conspiracy cause of action also fails," Court wrote. Emens' attorney, Jeff Anderson, said he had not yet seen the ruling.

The lawsuit, filed in October on behalf of the Camarillo man, demanded that all California bishops immediately release the names and documented histories of all clerical offenders that each diocese allegedly keeps secretly in their possession.

The archdiocese released a statement then in response to the suit, saying it had "cooperated in three grand jury investigations in our efforts to be forthcoming and cooperate with law enforcement on matters of abuse."

In announcing the suit, Anderson released a 120-page report on clerical sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, containing information on several hundred alleged offenders and detailing how the Archdiocese allegedly allowed more than 35 perpetrators to flee the jurisdiction after reports of abuse arose.

"There is a hazard that we feel compelled to expose," Anderson said. "The peril is that the Catholic bishops in California have engaged in such dangerous practices that there is grave peril to children in communities across the state."

Anderson said the report contained information on 309 alleged predator priests linked to the Archdiocese. Among them, he alleges, 37 priests have been moved out of Los Angeles to other states or foreign countries.

"There is a play book -- to move, transfer, hide, conceal and keep secret" abusive priests and their histories, the attorney alleged. "So, the scope of this is worldwide."

Emens alleges that he was assaulted by a monsignor he knew as a "close friend" when he was between the ages of 10 and 12 and living in Anaheim more than three decades ago.

"This lawsuit is to find justice -- to get the clerics at the top to come clean and tell the truth," he said then.

Anderson said the suit sought the forced disclosure of documents and information, not monetary damages.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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