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Deadline for sex abuse claims against Diocese

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POSTED May 14, 2014 1:43 a.m.

Sexual abuse claims against the Catholic Diocese of Stockton must be filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California by 4 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2014.

That announcement came from Bishop of Stockton Stephen E. Blaire in a media release sent by Director of Communications Sister Terry Davis.

The deadline for filing a claim, called the “Sexual Abuse Claim Bar Date,” applies to all sexual abuse claims that occurred before Jan. 15, 2014.

Earlier bar dates are set for other types of claims against the diocese pertinent to its filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. General claims have to be filed by May 22, 2014. Claims made by governmental bodies must be filed by July 14, 2014.

Sexual-abuse claimants must use the court-approved Sexual Abuse Proof of Claim Form for their claim to be valid. There are a number of ways to obtain that form.

They can go online by accessing the following websites where they can download the form:

• which is a website established by attorneys for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors appointed in the Stockton Diocese case;

• which is an informational website established for the diocese; click on the link to access the proof of claim form;

• which is the official web page of the diocese

Claimants can also contact by telephone the following:

• Creditor’s Committee counsel at (888) 570.6217;

u The Diocese’s bankruptcy law firm at (916) 329.7400

Those who do not have online access can obtain a copy of the notice and the proof of claim form by calling (916) 329-7400, said Jennifer Niemann, an attorney with Felderstein Fitzgerald Willoughby & Pascuzzi LLP, counsel to the debtor which is the Diocese of Stockton. The other counsels are Steven H. Felderstein and Paul J. Pascuzzi. The address of their law office is 400 Capitol Mall, Suite 1750, Sacramento 95814.

“They can ask to have a copy of the notice and the Proof of Claim forms and we’ll send a copy of the notice. The notice will tell them how to file them,” Niemann said.

The completed forms need to be sent to bankruptcy court. The notice form explains everything including the different types of claims – sexual abuse or general claims. It also explains the different ways the completed forms can be forwarded to the bankruptcy court – by mail, in person, or by overnight mail or courier, added Neimann.

Copies of the form may also be requested from the Creditor’s Committee counsel at the above phone number – (888) 570-6217.

The diocese has also pulled advertisements in more than 24 local and regional newspapers including one in USA Today as part of its effort to inform potential claimants of the deadline set by the court. Additionally, notices were mailed to all households on parish and parish school mailing lists that include St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca, St. Patrick’s Parish in Ripon, and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lathrop. Those lists can be viewed by clicking on the websites noted above.

“Key to the bankruptcy proceeding is determining exactly what claims the Diocese will face, enabling the court to distribute remaining assets as fairly as possible,” noted Davis in the emailed media release.

Bishop Blaire called the bankruptcy protection filing in January “a painful but necessary decision.” He added that it was a step undertaken after months of “careful consideration, consultation and prayer,” looking out for other solutions as a “way out” of the problem.

“Chapter 11 protection is the only way we can fulfill our responsibilities to the victims of sexual abuse and our responsibilities to the parishes and communities we serve,” he also stated at the time.

It was announced also at that time that parishes in the diocese, such as St Anthony in Manteca, St. Patrick’s in Ripon, and Guadalupe in Lathrop, are not affected in the bankruptcy filing, along with parochial schools as well as Catholic cemeteries and the Madonna of Peace Retreat Center in Copperopolis because these are separate corporations. However, in light of similar bankruptcy filings by other dioceses in the country where creditors have challenged the status of those filings, pastors in the diocese were advised to secure “independent legal assistance” so that they will be prepared when faced with those legal challenges.

During the two previous Sundays prior to the media release about the deadline for filing claims, all church parishioners in the diocese were notified by the above deadline dates through their parish bulletins.

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