February 16, 2005

Lichtman Overstepped Bounds as Settlement Judge in Orange County Clergy Sex Abuse Cases, C.A. Says

Metropolitican News-Enterprise


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman overstepped his bounds by making factual findings, which could have bound the parties in future proceedings, as part of his efforts to settle sex abuse claims against the Diocese of Orange, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.

Div. Eight granted a writ of mandate directing that Lichtman’s valuation of the cases, his order precluding the church’s insurers from declaring a forfeiture of coverage in the event the diocese settled without their consent, and findings which could have been used to establish bad faith by the insurers be vacated.

The ruling comes some six weeks after a $100 million settlement of the plaintiffs’ claims, about half of it coming from the insurers, was announced. In a footnote to his opinion yesterday, Justice Laurence Rubin said the court had not been formally notified of the settlement, and that it had not been asked to dismiss the writ proceeding as moot.

The Court of Appeal did not disclose how much Lichtman valued the cases at, citing the confidentiality of mediation proceedings under state law.

The Orange Diocese was the first in California to reach a settlement with alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse when they were minors. The cases are being managed as three separate coordination proceedings.

Posted by kshaw at February 16, 2005 01:08 PM