Judge in archdiocese bankruptcy balks at adding new costs

The federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis questioned the need for more legal and other professionals to resolve the case during a court hearing Thursday.

The legal bill for the bankruptcy is already about $3.6 million. Now, the archdiocese wants a firm hired to represent sex abuse victims who might file claims against the church in the future. The estimated cost is $150,000.

About 400 people filed abuse claims by an August deadline, but the archdiocese says some people could still come forward with legally viable claims of abuse that occurred before the church's bankruptcy filing and could argue they were not subject to the August cutoff.

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"They may be minors or have disabilities," said archdiocese attorney Richard Anderson.

At the hearing, the archdiocese says it has been standard procedure in other church bankruptcies to appoint someone to represent such claimants.

Russell Roten, an attorney representing insurers, said a future claims representative would add some finality to the case by contemplating possible claims and seeing that funds are set aside to provide compensation.

"Every similar case has had a future claims representative," he said "We want to cut off litigation and the potential for future litigation."

Roten said there can also be a conflict between known and unknown claimants and that requires the appointment of someone to advocate just for people who have not made claims.

But Judge Robert Kressel suggested the creditors' committee could handle that job, saying he wanted to avoid adding unnecessary expense and "another bureaucracy" to the bankruptcy.

"$150,000 to me is still real money," he said, twirling a finger upward to indicate he could see costs spiraling beyond that.

The archdiocese, parishes, abuse victims and insurers are in mediation talks aimed at reaching a bankruptcy reorganization that compensates abuse victims.