Judge says abuse case against Western Montana nuns can proceed

2014-03-31T16:14:00Z 2014-03-31T23:51:22Z Judge says abuse case against Western Montana nuns can proceedThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 31, 2014 4:14 pm  • 

HELENA — A federal judge ruled that 95 people can pursue sex-abuse claims in state court against an order of nuns during bankruptcy proceedings involving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena.

The Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province aren’t covered by an automatic stay in civil proceedings that was granted to the diocese when it filed for Chapter 11 protection, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers said in a Friday order.

A combined 362 plaintiffs filed two lawsuits claiming abuse by the diocese and the Ursulines between the 1940s and 1970s, when the plaintiffs were children.

The lawsuit against the order alleges that nuns and priests at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius abused dozens of Native American children. The diocese is accused of covering up widespread abuse across its territory.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection as part of a settlement with most of the plaintiffs, which prompted the automatic stay in state court.

The diocese agreed to $15 million in compensation, at least $2.5 million for future claims, a public apology and publication of the names of abusive clergy members.

But first, the diocese, which was already in financial straits, had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Ursulines are not participating in the settlement, and the plaintiffs had asked Myers to issue an order that would allow them to continue their case.

Susan Boswell, an attorney for the Ursulines, opposed the request, saying the cases against the diocese and nuns are too closely linked, and the Ursulines have their own claims against the diocese.

Myers said it was not necessary to issue a court order allowing the plaintiffs to continue their civil lawsuit against the nuns.

The Ursulines are a non-debtor co-defendant in the bankruptcy case, and automatic stays are not extended to such defendants, Myers wrote.

There must be a separate court finding of unusual circumstances that require an injunction to stop those proceedings, Myers wrote.

The Ursulines would have to successfully argue that an injunction is warranted in their case.

Tom Johnson, an attorney for the Ursulines, has previously said the order intends to either settle with the plaintiffs or file for bankruptcy on its own.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Comment policy

We provide this forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the day's news. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and abuse are not. You must be logged into a personal account on Facebook to comment (FAQ). Readers are responsible for their comments and abuse of this privilege will not be tolerated. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate our Terms of Service. Comments reflect the opinions of the author - not those of The Billings Gazette or its parent company.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

More from the Gazette

Methamphetamine-related crime on the rise in Missoula County

Methamphetamine-related crime on the rise in Missoula County

3 hours ago Photos

Photos

(0)
Former dean blasts prosecutor's presence at UM rape hearing

Former dean blasts prosecutor's presence at UM rape hearing

4 hours ago(0)

How the state public works funding bill died

8 hours ago(1)
Lodge Grass woman denies assaults

Lodge Grass woman denies assaults

May 01, 2015 1:16 pm(0)
Documentary on T-rex discovery leads to pardon request

Documentary on T-rex discovery leads to pardon request

May 01, 2015 11:45 am(0)

Missoula County to pay $1.3 million for 2011 car crash

May 01, 2015 11:17 am(0)
Feature photo: Triple delivery

Feature photo: Triple delivery

May 01, 2015 10:57 am(0)
Judge denies request to withdraw plea in homicide case

Judge denies request to withdraw plea in homicide case

May 01, 2015 10:12 am(0)

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses