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Judge Denies Diocese of Buffalo’s Attempt to Shorten Claims Period

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Western District of New York, Judge Carl Bucki denied the Diocese of Buffalo’s request to shorten the claims bar date for survivors of sexual abuse to file claims in bankruptcy court. The deadline to bring a claim remains the same, August 14, 2021, which is the expiration date of the Child Victims’ Act.

Survivor advocates viewed the church’s attempt as self-serving and not in the best interests of survivors.  As it is, survivors will not get their day in court since the Diocese of Buffalo filed for protection in federal bankruptcy court. In bankruptcy proceedings, the Diocese will not be forced to disclose anything other than its financial holdings. The history of sexual abuse in the diocese will remain secret and away from the public. 

The Diocese had urged Bucki to reconsider a Sept. 11 order that rejected requests for a mediated settlement process and set Aug. 14, 2021, as the deadline for abuse claims to be filed against the diocese. That’s the same date the extended Child Victims Act window closes in state courts.

The diocese wants a deadline of March 15, 2021. Its lawyers argued that waiting until August could delay “meaningful negotiations” regarding a Chapter 11 plan until 2022.

The diocese also is seeking a mediated settlement process, which largely would spare the diocese and 161 parishes from having to defend themselves in individual child sex abuse lawsuits. More than 400 plaintiffs since 2019 have sued the diocese and other area Catholic entities, including parishes and schools, over alleged abuse, mostly dating back decades ago.

A lawyer for the committee of unsecured creditors, which consists of childhood sex abuse victims, said in an interview that he was still assessing the diocese’s claims but doesn’t believe the diocese is running out of money.

That claim appears to be accurate since the Diocese is still paying a public relations consultant $10,000 per month plus $3,500 a month for expenses, under an agreement approved by a bankruptcy judge.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, contact our sexual abuse lawyers to discuss your legal options to seek justice.

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