Archbishop Apuron refused to participate in any settlements. He wants his "day in court", and he is challenging the constitutionality of the law, which lifted the statutes of limitations. According to the Guam Daily Post:
Suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron will get his "day in court" as the District Court of Guam will hear his motion to dismiss four child sex abuse lawsuits later this month.
Apuron's attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje, opposed a stay in the lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse filed against her client.
"There is no absolute necessity at this juncture that Apuron participate," Terlaje told the court during a status hearing yesterday.
The parties in the other 73 cases have agreed to a stay of the cases to participate in non-binding mediation that will be held in Guam beginning Oct. 30. But Terlaje urged the court to proceed with her client's cases.
"I think it is important for Apuron to have his day in court," the archbishop's attorney said. Terlaje asked that the court address her client's motion to dismiss and weigh the competing interests in the case.
Apuron has objected to participating in mediation as he contends there is no liability on his part. The suspended archbishop filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing the claims are time-barred and that Public Law 33-187, which provided a mechanism for victims to pursue civil action, is "inorganic and unconstitutional," court documents state.
Terlaje said the allegations against her client are 40 years old and the archbishop will be 72 years old this year.
"The longer this case is delayed, the higher risk my client will die with this case hanging over his head," Terlaje said.
The plaintiffs' attorney, David Lujan, opposed the stay, accusing the Archdiocese of Agana and Apuron of engaging in an "unholy conspiracy" and a "secret compact."
In an opposition to the motion to dismiss, Lujan accused the defendants of choosing to dodge responsibility by challenging the legality of the recently enacted statute that allowed sex abuse victims to sue for past abuse that had previously been time-barred by the prior statute of limitations.
Lujan alleges Apuron's motion to dismiss is being used to "scare" the plaintiffs into a quick and cheap settlement through mediation.
"It is Apuron's and the Archdiocese's secret conspiracy to minimize financial loss to the church on Guam, and perhaps Apuron's ticket not to be completely removed as an archbishop," Lujan wrote in his opposition to the motion to dismiss.
Archdiocese of Agana attorney Michael Patterson participated in the status hearing, via teleconference, expressing the church's opposition to proceeding with the Apuron cases.
"The best way to approach a resolution of the cases is through mediation. We want a resolution without destroying the church and that will bring healing and hope to his clients," Patterson said.
Patterson said a stay and any ruling on Apuron's motion to dismiss would have an impact on the Archdiocese of Agana. "It may also affect insurance coverage and my client's ability to resolve the cases," he advised the court.
Judge Joaquin Manibusan denied the stay for the Apuron cases but granted the stay for the Archdiocese of Agana to proceed with mediation. The court said forcing a party into mediation is often a "fruitless process" because the defendant who doesn't want to participate and comes in with a closed mind.
"The court must recognize that right and enforce the right of the defendant," Manibusan said.
The judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion to dismiss on Aug. 29. He will make a report and recommendation that will be reviewed by District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, who makes the final decision on the issue.
Lujan said he didn't expect that to happen until next year.
Mediation starts Oct. 30
While the four Apuron cases proceed, the parties in the remaining 73 cases will engage in alternative dispute resolution with retired federal Judge Michael Hogan.
A conference will be held Sept. 5 in Hawaii, with mediation expected to begin in Guam on Oct. 30, Lujan told the court.
Should Apuron's motion to dismiss be denied, Lujan has made it clear he and his clients will have "no more interest" in mediation.
"We're prepared to take this all the way to trial," Lujan said, expressing suspicions about Apuron and the church's motives about why the suspended archbishop wouldn't agree to mediation.
"You would think that a guy like Apuron would have some concern about the people of Guam and the Archdicoese and the finances, and ensuring the church he led in Guam will not be bankrupt. Why risk bankrupting it?" Lujan questioned.