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Spotlight Report

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Judge rebukes Law's lawyer for bid to delay deposition

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 1/22/2003

A Suffolk Superior Court judge yesterday ordered Cardinal Bernard F. Law's final round of depositions to resume this morning, and chastised the prelate's lawyer for requesting a last-minute delay.

Clearly annoyed at what she described as a legal tactic to ''sandbag'' lawyers for alleged sexual abuse victims, Judge Constance M. Sweeney ordered that those lawyers be reimbursed for their time spent fighting the motion. She didn't specify whether Law or his attorneys would have to pay the bill, but said the former archbishop would have a chance to look at the bill before she approved it.

''I do not think that this motion ... was filed in good faith,'' Sweeney said, noting she had agreed to postpone the depositions once before.

In the emergency motion, Law's personal attorney, J. Owen Todd, asked Sweeney to postpone the deposition until a grand jury convened by Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly had finished its work. Law has been subpoenaed to appear Feb. 25 before the grand jury, which is considering whether church officials who supervised priests accused of sexually abusing children have committed any crimes.

Sweeney noted yesterday that Law had known since mid-December that he had been ordered to appear before the grand jury. She directed her anger at Todd, who signed the motion but was out of state yesterday.

Sweeney said she was especially troubled that the request was filed late Friday afternoon when there was ''not a whisper'' that it was coming. Todd sat in her courtroom for another church hearing much of Friday.

Law will be questioned under oath today and Feb. 3.

Attorney Ian Crawford, whose name appeared with Todd's on the motion, told Sweeney that the motion was not filed as a legal tactic to distract opposing lawyers. He said the resumption of grand jury testimony last week, combined with recent public statements by alleged victims' lawyers, prompted the motion.

Attached to the motion were copies of two Globe stories in which lawyers for the alleged victims commented on released documents and pretrial testimony.

But yesterday, a lawyer for many of the alleged victims, Roderick MacLeish Jr., said court rules dictate that no transcript of Law's deposition would be made public until more than a month after he was questioned - probably after the grand jury finishes work.

After the hearing, MacLeish characterized Sweeney's order as a fine and suggested his bill for lawyers' fees and costs will total a few thousand dollars. ''Obviously, this diverted our attention from getting ready for this deposition,'' he said.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 1/22/2003.
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