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Sexual abuse
Lawyers to get half of money set out for Spokane abuse settlements
Lawyers to get half of money set out for Spokane abuse settlements
$48 million for victims cut down to about $22 million after attorney fees
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.- About half of a proposed $48-million settlement would go to victims of clergy sexual abuse while lawyers are due to receive the other half, according to a settlement plan filed last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The Diocese of Spokane’s 92-page disclosure statement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court said the Church’s bankruptcy lawyers are owed about $7 million, leaving $41 million to compensate victims.  However, nearly half of the $41 million will be taken by lawyers of the victims.

The settlement money would come from nearly $20 million in insurance settlements, $18 million from the sale of the bishop's office building and other assets; and $10 million from the diocese's 82 parishes.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams has yet to approve the reorganization plan. Lawyers representing all sides already approved it during the settlement mediation process, said Shawn Cross, a Spokane lawyer representing the diocese.

The victims have yet to vote on whether to accept or reject it.

In an article by the Associated Press, Michael Ross, an abuse victim who sued the diocese, pointed out that claimants who retained lawyers to represent them would owe their attorneys 40 percent to 50 percent of their settlement portion.

When lawyer fees and other expenses are deducted, claimants will only split about $22 million, Ross said.

According to the AP, Molly Harding, a leader of the Spokane chapter of SNAP, said victims are angry that so much of the settlement pool is going to pay lawyers. SNAP is a national activist group which speaks out against the Church over clergy abuse.  The group has been promoting similar civil lawsuits against Catholic Dioceses around the country and continues to press state legislatures for laws which would facilitate a greater number of suits against the Church.

The diocese has already reached settlements with 36 victims and one claim was filed for potential victims who make claims in the future. About 147 claims qualify for payment under the diocese's settlement offer, and $1 million would be set aside for future claims.

Cross explained that bankruptcy laws prohibit lawyers from advocating a particular plan.

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