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Flurry of new claims against Archdiocese filed before deadline

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A deadline-day surge of financial claims against the bankrupt Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis kept attorneys busy Monday.

A bankruptcy court judge had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday for victims of clergy sex abuse to file court claims to be included in a financial settlement with the Archdiocese.

WCCO reports 655 claims had been filed by Monday evening, with more than 400 of them relating to sex abuse.

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The majority of the claims are being handled by the St. Paul law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, which had staff members at the courthouse Monday to help with last-minute claims, the Star Tribune reports.

"It's been frantic, nonstop," the firm's office coordinator told WCCO.

Why the deadline?

In 2013, Minnesota passed the Child Victims Act, which temporarily removed the statute of limitations on past cases of child sex abuse.

The law gives abuse victims until May 25, 2016 to file court claims over such abuse. However, the judge handling its bankruptcy case moved the deadline for claims against the Archdiocese up to August 3 of this year.

Judge Robert Kressel says the earlier date speeds up the financial reorganization of the Archdiocese. In July Kressel rejected an appeal from victims' advocates to restore the original 2016 deadline.

Claims against other institutions – the Boy Scouts, for example – can still be filed until next May.

What now?

Now that all the claims have been filed, the Archdiocese and its insurance companies will review them and negotiate how much money insurers will put into a fund for victims.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney with the Anderson law firm, tells the Pioneer Press the insurance companies are "absolutely fighting back" at the negotiating table and the Archdiocese has already taken some insurers to court.

The amount that insurance companies must pay could also be affected by the outcome of a criminal case against the Archdiocese, which argues officials turned a blind eye to clergy sex abuse.

There are other claims against the Archdiocese that do not involve sexual abuse by priests.

WCCO says the amounts being sought range from a $14 million claim by a trust that provides health insurance to employees of the Archdiocese ... to $99 from a St Paul liquor stores that says a check from the Archdiocese bounced.

The Pioneer Press says 150 of the claims were filed by local churches and parishes.

MPR News reports one of the claims filed Monday came from a priest who's been convicted of sexual assault. Rev John Bussman contends the Archdiocese owes him $680,000 in unpaid salary, living expenses, and other support, MPR says.

According to the network, Bussman's claim also says the Archdiocese offered him $10,000 if he would agree to leave the priesthood.

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