Lawyers offered moderate hope Friday for a resolution in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
The next two days of mediation, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, could go a long way in determining the outcome, the lawyers said. But one lawyer expressed a different view, saying he and his clients would seek other solutions if they were unhappy with the negotiations.
The lawyers met with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Thuma in person and by phone on Friday during a 30-minute “status conference” on the case, which has been going on for more than three years and involves around 400 accusers who say they have been sexually abused by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church.
The archdiocese is embroiled with four insurance companies over settlements reached in the mid-1990s. Both sides allege the other is not fulfilling its commitment on payments. Insurance payments are widely considered essential to resolution.
Thomas Walker, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Albuquerque, told Thuma that he and his client “remain optimistic that a settlement can be reached” and that he looks forward to “closing it.”
But Los Angeles attorney James Stang, who represents an influential group of accusers called the “Unsecured Creditors’ Committee,” used Walker’s terminology to express his doubts.
“We would like to wrap up,” Stang said, but added that he and his clients will seek alternatives if they feel the Chapter 11 bankruptcy effort has not served them well.
He said “if we can’t do that, we will consider ‘all options,’ including whether this business is viable.”
Thuma asked if it was correct for him to think that the next two days of mediation will be crucial.
“Everyone probably has their own impression,” Walker replied. He said the last two days of mediation sessions in mid-March “didn’t do the job, but we’re closer.” He conceded that mediation must not only bring the parties together, “but to achieve it”.
“But everyone should bring whatever they have for the next few days,” Thuma said.
Stang replied that his customers were “not suffering from fatigue” and “not throwing in the towel”.
“But I want you to know they have the energy to make it happen,” Stang added, referring to his clients. “It must be the right one [settlement] number and other terms and conditions of law.
Thuma has scheduled another status conference for April 29. The judge signed and said, “Good luck next week.”