Court Rulings

     Court rulings can often be painful to read. When we feel we have prepared ourselves for the worst, we sometimes discover that we haven't. When we believe we have recovered from our injuries, we often find our deepest wounds have been reopened. It is natural to feel this way. It is also good when we can accept that these feelings are present in all of us. As we expect our own feelings to be acknowledged and respected, we strive to afford the same consideration to others who have been hurt by the same crisis. Healing is personal and begins with compassion for oneself. 

    SafeNet believes we are all accountable. We believe restorative justice must partner with understanding and sensitivity. We urge the greatest care when speaking of the pain and horror that so many have experienced. We post this information as a service to the public in the spirit of disclosure and transparency. And we encourage all of us to read and educate ourselves with the right intentions.  

     We are confident that we will all find the courage and wisdom to make our own determinations and distinctions based on all the available information. We are hopeful that all parties will continue to communicate in good faith. And we are certain that the work we do will focus not on the blame, but on the healing. 

Go to: Court Filings to read other revelant court briefs.

What You Will Find Here:

1. The Associated Press News Article on the Court Ruling of April 2, 2009
2. The Court Ruling of April 2, 2009 in two parts (PDF Files)
     re Court Ruling of Sept. 30, 2010: 
     Court of Appeal Upholds Order Releasing Priests' Records
4. The Appellate Court Ruling of Sept. 30, 2010:
     Regarding the appeal of  the public release of confidential files
     on Franciscan friars accused of sexual abuse.
     The Clergy Cases I, B215775
    Jan.19, 2011 (Case S187999) regarding the denial of the Franciscans' petition
    of the Appellate Court  Ruling of  Sept. 30, 2010. 
6. The Orange County Register Article of Oct. 20, 2011. RE: Trial in Huntington Beach, CA: Jury rules in favor of the Franciscans in Gus Krumm/Alexander Manville case.
NOTE: The Franciscan's Petition for Review before the California Supreme Court was filed on November 8. The Friars/Perpetrators Petition for Review was filed on November 5.

1. From The Associated Press / April 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered the Franciscans, a Roman Catholic religious order, to release hundreds of pages of private personnel files and other documents as part of a clergy abuse settlement.
         The order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman comes nearly three years after the Franciscans reached a $28 million settlement with 25 victims of sexual abuse.Lichtman ruled that the documents must be released within 21 days, but if the order and the individual brothers named in the records appeal, the ruling could be put on hold.
         An attorney for the plaintiffs said the previously undisclosed documents could reveal how long the Franciscans knew about alleged abusers and how they dealt with them. The documents also could contain the medical histories and treatment records of the accused, said Tim Hale, who represents 14 of the alleged victims.
         "We're going to see things that have never been seen and there's going to be pretty damaging and dramatic information in there," Hale predicted.
         Brian Brosnahan, an attorney for the Franciscan Friars of California Inc., said in a statement that Lichtman's decision to open the medical records to the public was counter-productive.
         "The psychotherapist-patient privilege exists so that the patient will make full disclosure to the therapist without fear that the communications will become public information," the statement said. "This would make it much less likely that the patient will be open and truthful with the therapist, which would make it much harder to effectively supervise and treat alleged offenders." Brosnahan said the Franciscans were considering whether to appeal the ruling.
         An attorney for the individual brothers was on vacation and didn't immediately return a call Thursday.
         The May 2006 settlement laid the groundwork for the Franciscans to release documents sought by the plaintiffs, including medical records, letters and personnel files. Lichtman was eventually assigned to review the contents of each document where objections were raised and decide if it could be made public.
         Some of the accused brothers fought back in court, arguing that releasing their files would violate their rights to privacy, attorney-client privilege and freedom of religion.
         In his order, Lichtman overruled many of those objections.He did, however, bar the release of documents generated after the 2006 settlement. He ruled in the Franciscans' favor on several objections over doctor-patient privilege, attorney-client privilege and attorney work product. He also agreed to redact the names of Franciscan superiors in some of the documents.
        Similar legal fights are going on over priest personnel files in settlements with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of San Diego.
        The Los Angeles archdiocese settled more than 500 clergy abuse cases for a record $660 million in July 2007 and the Diocese of San Diego reached a $198 million settlement with 144 alleged victims several months later.

© 2009 Associated Press

2. The Court Ruling of April 2, 2009
Superior Court of Los Angeles
Regarding Release of Confidential and Personnel Files / Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Barbara / Ruling in two parts.

Click Here to Read the Court Ruling: Part 1
Click Here to Read the Court Ruling: Part 2


3. From The Metropolitan News-Enterprise/ October 1, 2010
Metropolitan News-Enterprise
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Psychiatric and other confidential records of priests whose molestation of children resulted in lawsuits against their order may be released in the public interest, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.

“We hold that compelling social interests in protecting children from molestation outweigh the Individual Friars’ privacy rights, and the trial court correctly ordered the public release of psychiatric and other confidential records in the possession of the [Franciscan Friars of California, Inc.],” Justice Elizabeth Grimes wrote for the court.
The Franciscans were sued in 25 separate cases by plaintiffs who accused individual members of the order of molesting them as children. During discovery, the order produced some files relating to the individual priests, and the case was settled in 2006.
A consolidated settlement agreement required the Franciscans and the Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles to pay $28.45 million. It also established a procedure by which a judge would decide what records of individual priests would be made public, with or without redactions, after notice to those individuals.
The Franciscans agreed that they would not assert third party privacy rights with respect to documents involving “affect “public safety issues relating to childhood sexual abuse” or that reflect “the knowledge of the defendants as to the suspected sexual abuse of a child” or the “cover up” thereof. The agreement recognized, however, that individual priests could assert any legally valid objection to the release of any document.

Yesterday’s ruling concerns objections by six Santa Barbara-based friars— Samuel Charles Cabot, Mario Cimmarusti, David Johnson, Gus Krumm, Gary Pacheco, and Robert Van Handel—to release of documents alleged to be protected from disclosure by the constitutional right of privacy, and the psychotherapist-patient and physician-patient privileges. The priests also alleged that the settlement provision governing possible release of their records was invalid and could not be enforced against them because they were nonparties.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman, assigned to hear the objections as provided in the settlement agreement, found that the challenged settlement provision was valid, that the notice-and-hearing procedure satisfied due process, and that the friars waived the therapist-patient privilege by participating in therapy knowing that information they disclosed was subject to disclosure to other members of the order.
The judge went on to rule that 154 pages of documents, mostly consisting of psychological records, should be released under the balancing test used to decide constitutional privacy issues.
Grimes, in her opinion for the Court of Appeal, said Lichtman did not abuse his discretion in finding that the public interest in disclosure outweighed the privacy interests asserted by the priests.
The evidence, the justice explained, showed that 54 children were abused by 41 Santa Barbara-area priests, including 24 Franciscans—nine of them identified in the settled lawsuits—over a 50-year period. The six priests whose records were ordered released, she added, were shown by their own admissions or by records to have molested or to have a propensity to molest children, and one of them, Van Handel, had been convicted of a crime and ordered to register as a sex offender.
“Surely, all members of the Santa Barbara Franciscan province, as well as members of the Catholic Church throughout California, have a compelling interest in knowing what treatment the Individual Friars received, if any, for their predatory proclivities, and whether it was adequate to protect young parishioners whom they may have encountered in their ministries,” Grimes wrote. “Plaintiffs, former members of the Santa Barbara Franciscan province who have suffered the lifelong effects of childhood abuse, have the same interests as other members of the province and society in having the documents of their abusers released. Indeed, all citizens have a compelling interest in knowing if a prominent and powerful institution has cloaked in secrecy decades of sexual abuse revealed in the psychiatric records of counselors who continued to have intimate contact with vulnerable children while receiving treatment for their tendencies toward child molestation.”

The case is in The Clergy Cases I, B215775.
© 2010 Metropolitan News Company


4. The Appellate Court Ruling of Sept. 30, 2010:
     Regarding the appeal of  the public release of confidential files
     on Franciscan friars accused of sexual abuse.
     The Clergy Cases I, B215775
5. From the Associated Press / January 19, 2011
LOS ANGELES — The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to review an appeals court decision to unseal the files of nine Franciscan friars accused of child molestation, meaning thousands of pages of potentially incriminating documents will be made public within weeks.
The order covers four categories of files kept by the religious order on the California friars, including psychological records, confidential papers and documents related to the defrocking of some of the men over sex abuse allegations, said Tim Hale, an attorney for plaintiffs whose lawsuits prompted the ruling.
The files are expected to contain records of the friars' sessions with therapists and psychotherapists, disciplinary files and defrocking paperwork — all things that could show how much the Franciscans knew about their employees' behavior and when they knew it.
In some cases, files related to the defrocking of priests and other clerics include correspondence between local religious leaders and the Vatican.
The Franciscans are disappointed with the ruling but are preparing for the papers to be released within three weeks as directed by the court's order, said Brian Brosnahan, an attorney for the Franciscans.
When the files become public, it will have a chilling effect on the willingness of future priests and others to be honest with therapists and psychologists about any incidents of molestation, said Robert Howie, an attorney representing six of the individual friars.
"They would be reluctant to reveal it to a person that their employer sent them to because it would be public if the employer was allowed to touch it," he said.
Twenty-five plaintiffs settled lawsuits for $28.4 million in 2006, and the agreement called for the release of confidential files.
Most of the accused friars, however, did not sign the settlement agreement.
A trial judge ruled that the public interest outweighed the friars' privacy rights, but six of the friars appealed.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled last September that the papers could be made public.
"All citizens have a compelling interest in knowing if a prominent and powerful institution has cloaked in secrecy decades of sexual abuse," the court wrote in its opinion.
Six of the friars are still living and three are dead, Hale said.
© 2011 Associated Press



6. The Orange County Register Article of Oct. 20, 2011. RE: Trial in Huntington Beach, CA: Jury rules in favor of the Franciscans in Gus Krumm/Alexander Manville case.
Jury Rejects Brothers’ CLergy Abuse Allegations

By Vik Jolly / Orange County Register (OCR) / October 20, 2011

SANTA ANA – An Orange County jury on Thursday decided against two brothers who say they were molested by Franciscan priests at a Huntington Beach parish nearly two decades ago.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009, accused Gus Krumm (pictured) and Alexander Manville of sexual misconduct during 1992-94 when the two were priests at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic church.

Manville's supporters' "faith in him has been vindicated," said his attorney, Brian Brosnahan, outside Superior Court Judge Nancy Wieben Stock's courtroom moments after the verdicts were read.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated three and a half days before reaching a verdict, answering "no" to all four questions before them of whether the accusations by each brother against each defendant were more likely true than not.

Per an agreement reached before trial started, if the jurors had said "no" to all queries, the Franciscan Friars of California would still have to pay $400,000 to the brothers. Had the jury answered "yes" to any of the claims, the friars would have had to pay $1.4 million.

Defense attorneys said they agreed to the arrangement because "both sides had some benefit to limiting their risks" given the "horrific nature" of some of the allegations.

An attorney for the brothers said he was disappointed with the verdict.

"It all comes down to the fact that it was a case in which there were no independent witnesses," defense attorney Mark Spencer said.

Krumm, a former Franciscan friar, has admitted to instances of abuse in the 1970s and 1980s elsewhere. The civil lawsuit alleged that church officials knew about his past but did nothing to keep him from interacting with children at the Huntington Beach parish.

Krumm served as an associate pastor at Sts. Simon and Jude from July 1988 to September 1998. As pastor from 1982 to 1994, Manville was Krumm's supervisor for six years.

Defense attorneys argued that the brothers concocted the stories of abuse in part for financial gain, labeling one of the brothers' accusations as a "methamphetamine-fueled fantasy."

Paul Gaspari, the lawyer for the Franciscan Friars of California, said in his closing arguments that while Krumm lied to fellow Franciscans and is worthy of contempt, his pattern of abuse in the cases of seven teenagers well before the brothers' allegations surfaced is starkly different.

"It just doesn't fit," he told jurors.

Following the verdicts, Gaspari said he was concerned about laying out all of Krumm's past abuses but "we simply laid out the truth and the truth provided the roadmap for (jurors) that he was an admitted molester and that made him an easy target."

Some jurors believed there was method to Krumm's abuses and it couldn't be changed, one woman juror said afterwards. Others didn't consider it at all, she said.

The jury had no direct evidence supporting the allegations of sexual abuse, said the juror, who declined to give her name.

"Everyone was torn with the case," she said, "because what evidence do you have so many years later?"

She said jurors believed defense expert testimony that the brothers suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome, but could not peg where it came from.

John Hardin, the provincial minister for the Franciscan Friars of California, said he was thankful to the jury.

"We continue to be vigilant (against abuse) whenever situations come up like this," he said. "We also feel we have a right to defend ourselves in court."

The brothers pursued general damages for allegations of sexual battery, negligence and other causes of action.

In a high-profile settlement in 2006, the Franciscan Friars of California agreed to pay $28.5 million to plaintiffs in 25 separate sex-abuse lawsuits against Krumm and eight other friars.

Register reporter Greg Hardesty contributed to this report.

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