April 11, 2005

Silent tack is sensible for diocese, expert says

Contra Costa Times

By Randy Myers

Oakland Diocese lawyer Allen Ruby appeared to slip into a legal hibernation of sorts shortly after his opening remarks in a landmark clergy sex-abuse trial under way in Hayward.

For the most part, Ruby refrained from cross examining a flurry of witnesses that lead plaintiff attorney Rick Simons had testify in a negligence suit brought against the diocese by two former Antioch altar boys.

This legal maneuver might seem strange to the casual courtroom observer. But a civil attorney and former prosecutor specializing in child abuse cases views it as a potentially smart move in the civil trial.

Since the diocese has already conceded it acted negligently in dealing with the Rev. Robert Ponciroli, who sexually abused Diocese altar boys, this silent approach might prove crucial when it comes time to award damages.

"If the church is admitting liability, there is not a whole lot of sense in cross-examining," said Laurence E. Hardoon. "All you're going to do is inflame the jury."

Posted by kshaw at April 11, 2005 07:07 AM