15 sex-abuse trials to begin in July, diocese expected to settle

.- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is expected to settle hundreds of clergy sex abuse claims as a series of trials are set to start this summer.

Fifteen trials, involving 172 of the more than 500 alleged victims, are scheduled to be heard by juries over six months, beginning July 9, reported The Associated Press.

Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiff's attorney, said trials are set every three weeks between July and January. Many of the cases will be presented as "serial cases," in which the alleged victims of one priest group their claims before the same jury. Some trials will involve as many as 40 alleged victims at once.

The AP reported that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently ruled that Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, must testify in one of those cases. The same judge also decided that four alleged victims may seek punitive damages from the archdiocese.

Faced with these trials, legal experts said the archdiocese may seek to come to a settlement before jury selection. Cardinal Mahony recently issued an open letter, indicating that the archdiocese would sell its high-rise administrative building and is considering the sale of about 50 other nonessential church properties to raise funds.

But archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said the complexity of the situation could make settlements before the trials difficult.

"We work on settlements every day and I've been hoping for a settlement for five years," he told the AP. "It would be nice if we could get it done before these trials, but I'm not sure we can."

The archdiocese reached a $60-million settlement with 45 victims last December. Several religious orders in California also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.


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