Mahony’s Move Angers Abuse Plaintiffs

Times Staff Writer

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has intervened in a molestation lawsuit against a former Los Angeles police official to win a court ruling that could trigger dismissal of sexual abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The full effect of the ruling in early March won’t be known until the massive litigation moves closer to trial this fall.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. June 15, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 15, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 122 words Type of Material: Correction
Child abuse litigation: An article in Friday’s California section about Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s intervention in a molestation lawsuit against former Los Angeles Police Department official David Kalish identified David M. Ring as Kalish’s attorney. Ring, who has represented alleged sexual abuse victims for 10 years, is the lawyer for the teenagers who accused Kalish of molesting them when they participated in the Police Department’s Explorer Scout program in the late 1970s. The city of Los Angeles and the Boy Scouts, which sponsors the Explorer Scouts obtained an appellate ruling in the Kalish case that toughens standards for alleged sexual abuse victims pressing molestation claims in court. It was not Ring. Kalish has denied the molestation allegations and was never criminally charged.

Lawyers for the archdiocese said the appellate ruling, which would deny plaintiffs access to priests’ personnel files, could dispose of “a large number of cases.” But the alleged victims’ attorneys said they expect it will affect only a minority of cases. They have appealed the ruling to the California Supreme Court.


Raymond P. Boucher, attorney for many of the accusers, said the ruling could “create an impossible standard” for accusers to meet before they can view the archdiocese’s files.

Boucher this week castigated Mahony for the legal maneuver, saying the archdiocese’s written request for the ruling was done quietly and without the plaintiffs’ knowledge.

“I thought it was underhanded for the archdiocese to surreptitiously send that letter and never give us an opportunity to respond,” Boucher said.

J. Michael Hennigan, the cardinal’s lawyer, and Tod Tamburg, Mahony’s spokesman, declined to comment.

Mary Grant, with the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the move was “deceitful.”

“This again shows the church and Mahony are not serious about settling these cases,” Grant said. “They are continuing looking for delays and any way out.”


More than 550 parishioners have sued the church for allegedly failing to protect them from pedophile priests. The archdiocese has spent more than three years in settlement negotiations, but with nothing resolved to date, a judge recently set a trial date in November for the first of the cases.

In March, Mahony intervened in the molestation civil suit against the Los Angeles Police Department’s highest-ranking openly gay officer, Deputy Chief David Kalish. In 2003, several former Explorer Scouts accused Kalish of molesting them as teens in the late 1970s.

Kalish denied the allegations, and authorities said the accusations were too old to prosecute. Kalish retired with a full pension.

In the civil suit, lawyers for the former Explorers contended the department should have known that Kalish was abusing children. They noted that the Explorer Scouts program was run by the LAPD and alleged that Kalish invited Explorers to his home and gave them liquor.

Kalish’s lawyer, David M. Ring, however, argued that the Explorers, under a 2002 California law passed to allow victims to sue over long-ago sexual abuse, would have to show specific sexual misconduct by the chief before the LAPD could be forced to open its files. A California appellate court agreed and on Feb. 24 dismissed the suit against the LAPD; Kalish remains a defendant.

The ruling wasn’t published, meaning it would not guide other judges and its effect would be limited to the Kalish case. But on March 3, the cardinal’s lawyer wrote to the court, asking it to publish the decision.


Four days later, the court reversed itself and ordered publication “for good cause.”

Now Boucher has asked the California Supreme Court to depublish, arguing the decision does the opposite of what legislators intended when they passed the 2002 law, in part because of the church sexual abuse scandal: It denies victims their day in court.

Plaintiffs in the church litigation have long argued that the archdiocese’s files contain evidence that Catholic officials ignored abuse complaints, leaving pedophile priests in ministry without alerting parishioners or police.

In statements and summaries of the files’ contents released last year, Mahony acknowledged that he had left 16 priests in ministry after parishioners complained that they had engaged in sexual misconduct with children.

But no other prelate nationwide has fought as hard as Mahony to withhold internal church documents.

He was compelled to turn them over to a Los Angeles County Grand Jury in April after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

But access to the records in the civil cases remains hotly contested. In the last month, the church has turned over documents in some cases, but the plaintiffs believe the records are incomplete, and they began another round of legal sparring Wednesday.