May 21, 2006

Shakedown: How Catholics Are Getting Ripped Off in the Name of Justice

Crisis Magazine

By Francis X. Maier

“We got a new law passed in California that opens up the statute of limitations for all victims of sexual abuse. It’s something we’ve been trying to do in several states for years. And I’m not waiting for it to click in. I’m suing the sh–t out of [the Catholic Church] everywhere: in Sacramento, in Santa Clara, in Santa Rosa, in San Francisco, in Oakland, in L.A., and everyplace else.”

—Jeffrey Anderson, plaintiffs’ attorney
April 2003 interview

My wife and I were watching the news one evening last summer when the camera cut away to an attorney on the steps of Colorado’s state capitol. He announced to a cluster of reporters that he was suing the Archdiocese of Denver for $10 million for each of the various sexual abuse victims he now represented.

The attorney was Florida’s Jeff Herman. Herman is one of several high-profile litigators—along with Minnesota’s Jeffrey Anderson—who has made a business of suing the Catholic Church over the past decade. Under Colorado law, plaintiffs’ attorneys may not name the damages they seek to recover in civil suits. That’s a matter reserved for courts and juries.

Herman may or may not have known this. In either case, he couldn’t resist a photo op and sound bite. Ten million dollars has a nice ring to it. In Colorado, as elsewhere, the guerrilla theater of sex-abuse litigation has some very practical goals: shocking the public, frightening Catholics, polluting jury pools, and influencing judges and lawmakers.

Posted by kshaw at May 21, 2006 09:44 AM