January 08, 2005

Sexual abuse civil trial against two priests may be set for spring

Scranton Times Tribune


After two months in limbo, the sexual abuse lawsuit against two Society of St. John priests can now move forward, with the accuser's lead attorney eyeing a possible spring trial date.

In early August, the Rev. Eric Ensey filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, which, under federal law, triggers an automatic stay of a debtor's judicial proceedings. Father Ensey and the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, along with the Diocese of Scranton, the SSJ and a few other entities, are named as defendants in a John Doe civil suit filed in March 2002 in U.S. District Court.

In October, civil trial judge John E. Jones III cited the statute in ordering the case stayed until bankruptcy proceedings cleared or the automatic stay was removed. On Tuesday, the latter occurred, as federal bankruptcy Judge John J. Thomas issued an order lifting the automatic stay.

"Once the stay is lifted, the court will set a pretrial conference for us to select a trial date," said James Bendell, an attorney for Mr. Doe. "I think it should be able to go to trial by March or April."

Despite the stay's dissolution, both sides continue to wait on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys for the two priests are hoping to block Mr. Doe's attempt to obtain psychological records of the pair.

In March, Judge Jones gave Mr. Bendell the go-ahead to review the records, but allowed the priests to immediately appeal his decision to the 3rd Circuit.

Posted by kshaw at January 8, 2005 04:34 AM