More than 200 people are bringing claims of sexual abuse against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as the church goes through a bankruptcy. Anyone who still wants to file a claim has until next Monday to do it.
June 17 at 5 p.m. is the cutoff to get in on the settlement that the archdiocese will negotiate with survivors of clergy sex abuse.
Cammie Nichols is a partner at the Rothstein Donatelli LLP, representing a couple dozen survivors. She says this deadline can be really difficult for people who aren’t sure if they’re ready to talk about what happened to them.
"We're getting calls at like 1:45 in the morning on the paralegal’s cell phone and she tries to get back in touch but they hang up, and she can’t get back in touch with them," said Nichols. "It’s like, they’re struggling to come forward, and they recognize the deadline, but they’re really having trouble."
The bankruptcy system is set up to protect peoples’ identities, said Nichols, so claimants will remain anonymous unless they choose to go public. "We just encourage anybody who wants their voice to be heard and to be part of this process that they gather up the courage to do it and to call somebody."
Most attorneys won’t charge fees in a case like this until after a settlement is paid out, Nichols said. Rothstein Donatelli LLP is representing about 30 people to file claims against the archdiocese.
Other firms representing victim-survivors in this case include the Albuquerque-based Hall & Monagle LLC, with about 110 claimants; a group of attorneys from Washington state called New Mexico Sex Abuse Lawyers, with about 90; and the Bennett Law Group in Santa Fe with two.
It’s also possible to file a claim without an attorney.
It's likely that the eventual bankruptcy settlement will include a fund for future claimants, but attorneys say the only sure way to get a payout is to file by June 17.
Note: The Rothstein Donatelli law firm is an underwriter of KUNM programming.
Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.