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Law's words frame new play

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Spotlight Report

Law's deposition is ordered resumed

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 7/11/2002

Despite a voluntary month-long truce to explore a possible financial settlement between the Archdiocese of Boston and more than 200 alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, a judge yesterday ordered lawyers to push forward on lawsuits filed by a number of people who say they were abused by retired priest Paul R. Shanley.

Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney ordered lawyers for the alleged victims to resume the deposition of Cardinal Bernard F. Law within two weeks, and to continue every day until they are finished.

The truce, which had been called by lawyers for the church and the victims, will expire next Wednesday. Although the talks have been fruitful, it is unlikely that lawyers will reach an agreement by the end of the time-out, said Jeffrey Newman, a lawyer for at least 100 of the alleged victims. ''We haven't talked specific dollars and cents,'' he said.

Sweeney's ruling may prevent the lawyers from extending the truce. Lawyers for the archdiocese couldn't be reached for comment.

''I assume that we'll simply have to comply with the judge's wishes,'' Newman said. ''I'm not going to let it deter me from what has been a good and focused effort on both sides to get at the ... potential of settlement.''

In ordering the lawyers to expedite Law's deposition, Sweeney wrote that she was balancing the public's interest in the clergy sexual abuse cases and the rights of those involved in the lawsuits. She also said the court must focus on related matters, including a hearing that begins July 31 on whether a tentative $15 million to $30 million settlement between the archdiocese and alleged victims of convicted molester John J. Geoghan should be upheld.

Law has already answered questions under oath for two days, and yesterday, Sweeney said she expected several more days of testimony. In her ruling, Sweeney also adopted the same rules for releasing the transcripts of the Shanley depositions - for both Law and McCormack - as she already laid out in the Geoghan cases.

The transcripts would be released 30 days after the deposition is completed so witnesses have a chance to correct errors. Sweeney has yet to decide whether to release videotapes of the depositions; she will issue a ruling on that, she said, within about 10 days.

Also yesterday, lawyers for 86 alleged victims of Geoghan deposed two mediators who helped negotiate the tentative settlement between their clients and the archdiocese. Sweeney had allowed the lawyers to proceed with a very narrow course of questioning, asking whether attorneys for the archdiocese had given the mediators permission to talk to a Brockton Enterprise reporter about the settlement.

Patrick McSorley, one of the alleged victims who is suing the archdiocese, sat through nearly six hours of depositions yesterday. ''It's obvious that the mediators had the permission of the attorneys to talk to the reporter,'' he said afterward.

The question is important because lawyers for the alleged victims are trying to convince Sweeney that the mediators should be allowed to reveal whether they believed the settlement was binding. The archdiocese backed out of the settlement in May.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 7/11/2002.
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