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Attempt to mediate Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy falters
Catholic News Service


MILWAUKEE — When Judge Susan Kelley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin had attorneys representing the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in her courtroom July 9, among the instructions she gave them were, "I want you to work as hard as you can on mediation."

Proceedings in the archdiocese's Chapter 11 reorganization were stayed from July 20 through Sept. 20 in hopes that the case, mediated by retired U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Randall Newsome, could be settled.

On Oct. 15, the archdiocese learned that a settlement could not be reached. Reasons for the lack of resolution were not released.

"Under the court's direction, the parties agreed that mediation sessions would be confidential and comments regarding specifics involved in the mediation would violate that agreement," Jerry Topczewski, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki's chief of staff, wrote in an Oct. 15 email to the Catholic Herald, a publication that serves the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.

"Although a resolution could not be reached at this time, we remain hopeful a consensual resolution will ultimately be reached," Topczewski said.

In a summary of disposition issued July 3, the court said: "If mediation results in settlement of any or all of the issues in this case, the parties shall commit the settlement to writing, signed by all parties to the settlement. The court recognizes that settlement could take the form of a consensual plan or stipulated dismissal of the case."

Topczewski told the Catholic Herald July 9 that eligibility to make a claim and criteria for eligibility would need to be determined if resolution was to be reached in the attempt at mediation.

"Clearly, Judge Kelley wants to see the case moved toward a resolution, as does everybody; the main question (remains): How many claims are eligible? What is the best way to organize compensation for them? That will be the goal going into mediation," he said at that time.

While noting that the mediation was not binding, Topczewski said the archdiocese was "hopeful" the process would work.

"We go in with a sincere, open effort, as we have in the past. If we can settle these, and come to agreements on issues that are involved, great if it would bring resolution to the case," he said. "That's how we go into a mediation -- with the intention of reaching an agreement."

Between Oct. 18 and Nov. 11, 2010, the archdiocese attempted to mediate with 24 victim/survivors, offering a settlement of $4.6 million. Attorneys for the victim/survivors rejected the offer. Since 2004, when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee established a mediation process, it has settled claims made by 190 victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

While not on her public schedule, it is expected that attorneys for the creditors and the archdiocese will meet with Kelley to learn how the case will proceed.



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