January 09, 2005

An attorney indicts the church

The Orange County Register

The Orange County Register

COSTA MESA John Manly used to think he had life figured out.

As a bright kid growing up in Orange County in the 1970s and 1980s, he developed a confident, comprehensive worldview based on his orthodox Roman Catholic beliefs.

"I was very, very conservative," he remembers. He served as an altar boy at St. Catherine's Military School in Anaheim, then graduated from Santa Ana's Mater Dei High School and USC. He considered whether he had a vocation for the priesthood, but determined that the law was his true calling.

He proudly proclaimed his political leanings from an early age. As a teenager, he volunteered on Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign. Twenty years later, in an act of deep loyalty to the Republican Party, he flew to Florida after the disputed 2000 election to offer free legal help to the Bush campaign.

But by then, his life had begun to take an unforeseeable turn.

It began in 1997, when Ryan DiMaria sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and former priest Michael Harris. DiMaria alleged that he had been sexually abused by Harris while a student at Santa Margarita High School in 1991, when Harris was the school's principal. Manly helped represent DiMaria, who won a $5.2 million settlement from the diocese, still the largest individual amount paid in a clergy-abuse case.

After the DiMaria settlement in 2001, Manly thought he could turn his attention back to his main practice of real-estate law. But events overtook him.

Posted by kshaw at January 9, 2005 08:11 AM