Human rights law can be used in clergy sex abuse suit, judge rules
St. Paul lawyer's attacks on church show increasingly international reach
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Feb. 28, 2011
A federal law that allows U.S. courts to hear lawsuits involving human rights violations in other nations can be used in a case involving Catholic clergy sex abuse, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Monday.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Josephine S. Tucker appears to be the first time the 200-year-old Alien Tort Statute has been used to pursue a sex abuse claim against the Catholic Church. And it illustrates the increasing international reach of victims attorney Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., who is suing the Vatican and has opened a practice in London to pursue cases in the United Kingdom. Anderson represents a number of victims in civil fraud cases against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
"This is huge, very significant," said Anderson, who filed the case on behalf of a Mexican boy after seeing the law used to bring cases involving Japanese women conscripted as sex slaves in World War II.
Attorneys and a spokesman for retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony did not immediately return calls.
In her ruling Monday, Tucker denied a motion to dismiss by lawyers for Mahony, arguing that the federal court did not have jurisdiction. The lawsuit also names as defendants Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Father Nicholas Aguilar Rivera.
Aguilar is accused of molesting 60 children in Mexico before he was sent to Los Angeles, where he is accused of molesting 26 others. He returned to Mexico, where he allegedly molested four more children - including Juan Doe 1 named in the Alien Tort Statute case - and his whereabouts are unknown, Anderson said.
[See April 2010 ATS Today post about this case here and here.]
[See also The Huffington Post.]