July 13, 2005

Justices open door on priest abuse cases

The Capital Times

By Pat Schneider
July 13, 2005

The Wisconsin Supreme Court today unanimously barred a claim of negligence against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in a case of alleged priest sex abuse, but a majority of justices opened the door to revisit, in some future case, the past court decisions that abuse survivors say have closed the courthouse doors to them for a decade.

In a strongly worded concurrence, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley admonished the court majority for dodging the First Amendment and statute of limitation issues that have kept clergy sex abuse claims out of Wisconsin courts since a series of high court rulings in the mid-1990s.

"For the benefit of the lower courts and future litigants, I address the questions left unanswered by the majority," Bradley said in concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and in part by Justice Patience Roggensack. Bradley argues that the court's past rulings do not bar negligence claims against the Catholic Church in allegations of priest sex abuse against children.

In a second concurrence, Justice Louis Butler, with Justice Patrick Crooks joining, said the court does not normally decide constitutional questions if the case can be resolved on other grounds. "These questions have not been resolved, and will have to be addressed in possible future litigation," Butler wrote.

Posted by kshaw at July 13, 2005 04:33 PM