October 21, 2005

Motion denied to replace judge from priest sexual abuse cases

Sioux City Journal

10/21/2005 03:48:23 PM

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) -- A judge denied a request Friday to replace another judge from presiding over a pair of sexual abuse lawsuits involving the former bishop of the Sioux City diocese.

Attorneys for Bishop Lawrence Soens sought to have Judge C.H. Pelton dismissed from the cases because they believed that Pelton had misinterpreted the statute of limitations and erred in other rulings made in a series of sexual abuse lawsuits involving priests last year.

David Schoenthaler, chief judge for the 7th Judicial District, said he denied the motion because it violated rules barring chief judges from making any decision that could influence the way other judges in the district interpret the law.

He also said the request put him in the awkward position of acting like an appeals court on Pelton's rulings.

"If the court were to remove Judge Pelton, it would be tantamount to finding that Judge Pelton's rulings had been wrong," said Schoenthaler, whose district oversees Muscatine, Scott, Clinton, Jackson and Cedar counties. "That action would indirectly say to a successor judge to" rule accordingly.

Pelton was appointed by Schoenthaler in January 2004 to preside over the consolidation of more than 30 sexual abuse lawsuits involving priests from the Davenport diocese, none of which named Soens.

Posted by kshaw at October 21, 2005 07:30 PM