Judge declines to toss out clergy sex abuse lawsuit; November trial set

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A Ramsey County judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Catholic church leaders in Minnesota created a public nuisance through their handling of sexually abusive priests.

The Pioneer Press reports District Judge John Van de North rejected a motion by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona to have the case dismissed.

The lawsuit was filed by a man known in court documents as Doe 1, who says he was sexually abused by Rev. Thomas Adamson during the late 1970's. Adamson worked at churches in both the Winona diocese and the Twin Cities archdiocese. The suit contends church leaders put children at risk by transferring Adamson without alerting parishoners to his previous behavior.

WXOW posted the text of a statement from Doe 1's lawyers. Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan call the ruling to allow the public nuisance suit to proceed a historic decision and a breakthrough in child protection efforts.

Conversely, Thomas Wieser, an attorney for the archdiocese, argues the allegations do not meet the criteria for a nuisance claim. Wieser tells the Pioneer Press Van de North has acknowledged he "is pretty much standing alone" among judges when it comes to supporting public-nuisance claims in sexual-abuse cases.

The lawsuit has already led to the release of thousands of internal church documents involving clergy sex abuse allegations and sworn testimony from several top church officials.

In a deposition released in June, Adamson, now 80, testified that he remembered having sexual contact with at least ten children but was uncertain what the exact number might be.

MPR News reports Van de North's ruling clears the way for a jury trial to begin on Nov. 3.

The Winona Daily News notes a trial was originally scheduled for this month, but was delayed while Doe 1 seeks financial damages and the release of more church documents.

MPR says Anderson and Finnegan are considering filing similar public nuisance lawsuits over clergy sex abuse in other states.

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