Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cases vs the Vatican

Here is a link to an article published today (online) by the National Law Journal on the recent cases against the Vatican related for damages caused by alleged sexual abuse by priests. If you can't access the article online, you can look for it in next week's print edition of the NLJ. Last December I posted that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had decided the appeal on a case called O'Bryan v Holy See recognizing a claim against the Vatican for its conduct in handling allegations of sexual abuse by certain priests. The plaintiffs sued The Vatican as a foreign governmentt and as the head of an international religious organization arguing vicarious liabilty for the acts of certain bishops and priests. Because the Vatican is considered a foreign state, it challenged the jurisdiction of the court under the Foreign Sovereign Immnunity Act. The Court dismissed some of the claims but allowed others to continue. The Court dismissed the claims for the alleged conduct of The Vatican itself, because that conduct occured outside the United States and the claims based on vicarious liability because of the conduct of the alleged sex abuser because, under state law, a priest is not an employee of The Vatican. The Court, however, did recognize a claim against The Vatican for the conduct of the achbishops, bishops and other high ranking officials of the Church because they could be considered employees. Since then, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a similar decision in a case called Doe v Holy See. The Court’s decision in this case, however, is different in one very important respect. Applying Oregon law, it finds that the alleged abuser is an employee of The Vatican and, thus, it recognizes a possible claim against The Vatican itself for the conduct of the priest. After Doe was decided, the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs held a long press conference which can be found in YouTube in three parts here, here and here.

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