By Ed Langlois
A Portland attorney who refused to enter talks over an Archdiocese of Portland document release is continuing a solo legal venture.
Erin Olson hopes to publicize thousands of pages of clergy personnel information.
Olson, who represented multiple accusers during the archdiocese’s three-year bankruptcy, came before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris last week to push her point about the documents.
Perris has set up a hearings schedule that aims to settle Olson’s request by fall.
“It’s been a long time,” Perris told lawyers last week, urging them to find a resolution on documents soon.
Meanwhile, a mediation over document release will begin April 1, with the archdiocese and a handful of accusers’ lawyers being guided by retired Circuit Court Judge Lyle Velure. If that fails, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan will step in to arbitrate. The process was the plan all along in case negotiations over the documents stalled.
In the $72 million sex abuse settlement reached a year ago, lawyers for accusers and the archdiocese agreed that documents would be released to shed light on how church leaders handled abusers. The archdiocese last June placed almost 400 pages of letters, depositions and memos on a website — www.archdiocesedocuments.org. Church leaders and their lawyers said more documents might follow, but did not want to give out private information that is not germane.
Negotiations began over what documents would be released when. Seven attorneys representing accusers joined, but Olson stayed out. Immediately after the web release, she had written to lawyers on both sides, urging that thousands more pages be unsealed.
Late last year, attorney Kelly Clark walked out of the document negotiations with the archdiocese, despite church leaders’ contention that the talks were progressing.
Tom Dulcich, legal counsel for the archdiocese, told Perris at last week’s hearing that neither side appears to be “dragging feet” in talks.
Bud Bunce, spokesman for the archdiocese, says Olson and Clark are trying to rush a process that had been planned out in advance with the agreement of everyone except Olson.
“We have already released a number of documents,” said Bunce. “We have said we will release more, and we are in the process of working that out. It does take a certain amount of time.”
The archdiocese had suggested that Olson’s document dispute could be handled by Hogan, who with Velure helped achieve last year’s landmark bankruptcy settlement. But Perris said such an appointment is not part of bankruptcy court rules.
Judge Perris, by setting the schedule the way she did, affirmed the archdiocese’s request that her decision be deferred until Judge Hogan has a chance to rule in his arbitration.
Meanwhile, parishes all over western Oregon are showing mandatory films and continuing an education process so that students, parents and staff can recognize and block possible sexual abuse. Last week, Catholics fasted and prayed for a day to promote healing of abuse victims and the church.