A drawn-out settlement over sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Diocese of Charleston soon might be resolved.
Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein of the First Judicial Circuit in Dorchester County issued an order Tuesday that requires the diocese to deposit $1.375 million with the Clerk of Court "within one banking day" once the diocesan attorney receives a copy of the signed order.
The court will assume control over the deposited funds, disbursing them to attorney Gregg Meyers. Meyers must obtain releases from his 11 clients, the order states. It could take a week or two to collect the releases since some parties to the settlement reside out of state, Meyers said.
The judge's decision was made in response to a motion filed in July by the diocese, which has maintained since the settlement deal was struck in August 2007 that it would hold up its end of the bargain, but that certain challenges had to be resolved first, Meyers said.
The diocese had alleged that the addition of a 12th plaintiff, a man who had already settled with the diocese years ago, was unauthorized, and Tuesday's order states that "John Doe B is, all parties agree, not party to these proceedings." Meyers said the man was never party to the proceedings, only to a gentlemen's agreement among other victims who agreed to share some of the settlement money.
Meyers negotiated his settlement with the diocese after a group of victims opted out of a larger class-action settlement that required the church to pay up to $12 million.
A motion by Meyers to force Goodstein to recuse herself and dismiss the case (which was filed in Charleston County) because of alleged misconduct was rejected by the judge. Meyers and his colleague David Flowers had filed complaints last year alleging that Goodstein colluded with attorneys involved in the class-action settlement, an assertion strongly denied by the accused. Still "under advisement with the Court" is the claim that the diocese owes interest on the money it has withheld until now.
Because of Tuesday's order, victims soon could be paid, but the case likely will not be closed until a 9th Circuit Court of Common Pleas judge in Charleston ties up the loose ends.