Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico are working together collaboratively to represent survivors in the Maryland sexual abuse litigation that has developed as a result of the passing of the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023. The information being provided here is designed to give real-time updates on issues impacting Maryland survivors.
Rob Jenner, Steve Kelly, and Phil Federico were all interviewed by the Baltimore Sun in advance of the battle to determine the constitutionality of the Maryland Child Victims Act. Robert K. Jenner, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiff suing the Washington diocese in Montgomery County, said that the legislature has the power to change the law. “They’ve created it and they can modify it. That’s been done before and it will happen in the future. There’s nothing unique about a legislative body changing a statute.”
Black survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of clergy have been nearly invisible in the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis — even in Baltimore, home to a historic Black Catholic community that plays an integral role in the nation’s oldest archdiocese. The U.S. Catholic Church generally does not publicly track the race or ethnicity of clergy abuse victims. Without that data, the full scope of clergy sex abuse and its effects on communities of color is unknown. Read this outstanding investigative piece by the AP.
Our legal team has now filed six lawsuits on behalf of women, all in their 60’s, who as students in the 1970s at the prestigious Key School were groomed, then repeatedly sexually abused, by multiple male members of the faculty. These survivors filed the first complaints against the prep school under Maryland’s historic Child Victims Act of 2023. Each complaint can be downloaded from the links in the comments on our Facebook page. The Baltimore Sun captured the story in today’s featured article which interviewed Rob Jenner for the story.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is in bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Court will set a “Bar Date” — a deadline — by which all survivors must file a claim or their quest for compensation will be forever lost. It’s important that all survivors speak with lawyers to make sure their rights are protected. The Baltimore Banner wrote an important story on the topic today. Jenner Law wants to ensure that all survivors of clergy sexual abuse get a right to be heard, have their claims considered, and obtain justice expeditiously. If you think you may have a claim, please contact us if you have questions about how to protect your rights in the bankruptcy court.
Today our legal team appeared before Judge Michelle Harner at the AOB bankruptcy hearing. We continued to press for transparency and the ability for our survivors to be heard. Judge Harner said at the hearing that she thought it “important that the bankruptcy process be viewed as it should, right as a place where people can have a voice.” She continued, “I think there’s a way that we can give people a voice. They want to be heard. And so as you’re thinking about a global resolution, and I’m glad you’re thinking about it so early in this case, I encourage you to be innovative and think about the ways this court can provide due process notice and an opportunity to be heard.” We accept Judge Harner’s representation without equivocation and will press forward with creative ideas to ensure that the voices of our clients are heard. Gordon Novod and Rob Jenner were interviewed after the hearing by NPR. That interview can be found here.
Baltimore’s historic St. Benedict Church will close permanently following the revelation of a second allegation implicating its popular former pastor, Rev. Paschal Morlino. The Archdiocese of Baltimore in October dismissed Morlino from his position leading the church amid an investigation by The Baltimore Banner. It was disclosed that Morlino paid $200,000 to quietly settle allegations of fraud and sexual assault. Officials told congregants Saturday that Catholic leadership has since learned of another abuse allegation dating to 1993 against Morlino, who until recently was celebrated as an “urban monk” of Southwest Baltimore who led St. Benedict Church for decades. Read the story here.
SO, HERE WE GO. The AOB, now having forced all of the survivors/creditors into bankruptcy proceedings, has requested the court to institute a 90-day bar date. This means that the AOB is asking that every survivor/creditor must complete a claim form and submit it within 90 days in order to recover in the bankruptcy proceedings. This is an unconscionably short bar date and undermines the intent of the Maryland legislature to eliminate dates for filing claims against predators and their institutional enablers. Yes, we are in bankruptcy court now, but this affront to the public policy of Maryland, and the sensibilities of our clients and AOB survivors state-wide, should not stand. Rest assured our law firm team is going to oppose this vigorously. You can read the entire motion here.
Today the legal team of Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico filed an Amended Complaint in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County on behalf of clergy abuse survivor, David Schappelle. The Saint Luke Institute, the embattled Silver Spring-based “treatment” center for pedophile priests, has joined the Archdiocese of Washington, and one of its parishes, as a defendant in the serial sexual abuse lawsuit filed by a survivor under Maryland’s Child Victims Act (CVA).
David Schappelle, 46, of Ellicott City, is a former parishioner at St. Rose of Lima, Gaithersburg. That parish was his boyhood church. David was only nine-years young in 1986 when he was targeted, groomed, repeatedly sexually abused, and threatened at gunpoint, by serial predator Father Wayland Yoder Brown (at the time in “treatment” at Saint Luke for his admitted pedophilia). The updated filing adds defendant Saint Luke, detailing the link between Brown, and the facility, specifically its abject failure to prevent the notorious pastor from abusing Mr. Schappelle – and other parish children – and its negligent concealment from law enforcement of his perverse actions. Read the full complaint here.
Clergy abuse survivor, Frank Schindler, an advocate and friend of our firm, recognizes that the bankruptcy process will re-establish the statute of limitations that the Maryland General Assembly almost unanimously voted to abolish. He expresses his dismay beautifully in this commentary. He wrote, “Let us be absolutely clear so there is no doubt on this point. Leaders of the Archdiocese of Baltimore are not filing bankruptcy because of the passage of the Child Victims Act. They are filing because they, as an institution, abused hundreds of children. Had they not perpetuated the abuse, allowed it to continue unabated, and thereby enabled and even encouraged it, the Child Victims Act would have no relevance to them.” Way to go, Frank. Way to go. Read the full editorial.
The Buffalo Diocese is offering up to $100 million to settle child sex abuse claims in its federal bankruptcy case. As much as half of that would come from parishes, schools and other Catholic entities, while the diocese would also need to sell its Catholic Center on Main Street, the former Christ the King Seminary campus in the Town of Aurora and other properties. Read the full story here.
What’s the biggest impact the bankruptcy has on the Child Victims Act? The Maryland Child Victims Act eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sex abuse. That means an adult survivor can file a claim against the perpetrator and the institutional enabler (the Church) at any time without regard to any time limitations. With the filing of bankruptcy, however, the Court will impose a “Bar Date” which in effect puts a limitation period on when survivors can bring a claim. We recommend that people with claims against the AOB retain a lawyer who can give them the personal attention they need to protect their rights.
Mother Debra Susannah Mary Rhodes is a member of our Survivors Advisory Board. She wrote an op-ed that was published in The Baltimore Sun excoriating the Catholic Church for its handling of its culpability for childhood sexual abuse. “[T]he Catholic Church, by prioritizing secrecy and self-protection over protecting the people within it, creates a culture of abuse, where perpetrators can abuse freely and openly without suffering any consequences.” You can read the entire Guest Commentary, here. Also, you can listen to Mother Rhodes’ testimony in her Survivors Story for the Survivors Advisory Board here.
Gemma Hoskins, one of the inspirations behind the Netflix series, The Keepers, continues her advocacy on behalf of survivors with her newly released Foul Play Crime Series podcast — Bankruptcy and Betrayal [How Bankruptcy Shields Predators]. For anyone who has yet to come forward with their story of clergy abuse, and for anyone who has, this is a must-listen-to discussion about the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s move to protect its assets from survivors, and what you can do about it. For those interested in listening to the podcast, you can click here: https://bit.ly/3FpIrUc
The legal reporter, Law360, published a feature article on the partner of our three law firms — Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico – recognizing our efforts to represent clergy survivors through the AOB bankruptcy. Featured prominently in the article is paralegal Mary Beth Diaz. Mary Beth’s mother is a survivor of Fr. Maskell at the Keogh school, so Mary Beth knows first-hand the trauma that survivors endure. Like her mom, many accusers do not even regain memories of abuse until they are much older, and from there, it’s a long and challenging road toward feeling comfortable sharing their stories. The CVA gave accusers not just the luxury but the necessity of time, attorneys said, and the church wiped that away. “I don’t know how many times I’ve told people, ‘If you’re not ready, that’s fine. You don’t have to be ready. You can wait. I’ll be here,'” Diaz said. “Now that’s completely out the window.” Read More
The US Bankruptcy Trustee selected seven survivor/creditors to serve on the creditors committee for the AOB bankruptcy. Law firms across the state identified candidates who we thought would be excellent members of a creditor’s committee. Other law firms around the state did the same. We submitted three application forms to the Trustee on Friday of last week. The interview process was held perfunctorily two days ago, on Wednesday. By Wednesday night, the Trustee named the members of the committee. Regrettably, none of our candidates was selected to serve.
Today was the first bankruptcy hearing before Judge Michelle Harner of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. Judge Harner is assigned to the bankruptcy filing by the AOB. The Court was packed and there was even an overflow courtroom because of the number of people who showed up. Many survivors held a conference outside the courthouse after the hearing, as well.
To be clear, nobody is happy about being in Bankruptcy Court. That being said, we need to make the best of it. Judge Harner did a magnificent job, we thought, presiding over the hearing. She is smart, and efficient, and clearly showed compassion towards the survivors. She recognized that this was no ordinary bankruptcy proceeding, and the voices of the survivors – in some way – had to be heard. We are all confident that she will make sure there is a fair balance between the rights of the Church (the “debtor”) and the rights of the survivors (the “creditors”). In bankruptcy court, that’s not always the case. We were all impressed with Judge Harner’s efficiency and compassionate approach to the proceedings.
Today the Maryland Child Victims Act went into effect. Our firm, along with our co-venture partners Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, filed
lawsuits on behalf of David Schappelle (Montgomery County), Carolyn Surrick (Anne Arundel County), and Valerie Bunker (United States District Court in Baltimore). A copy of all of these Complaints can be found on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/jennerlawpc/
We could not be prouder of David, Carolyn, Valerie and indeed all of our survivors who have summoned the courage to come forward and tell their stories.
Jenner Law and Grant & Eisenhofer were proud sponsors of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center (MCVRC) Annual Gala in Annapolis. Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, Del. CT Wilson, Roberta Roper, MCVRC Exec. Dir. Kurt Wolfgang, Gemma Hoskins, Carolyn Surrick, and other notable crime victim advocates attended. Please consider donating MCVRC if you’re able in order to support the crime victim community.
Each of the three firms of our joint venture – Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico – spoke today at the Maryland Association for Justice program: Litigating Church Abuse Cases in Maryland. The program, organized and moderated by Jenner Law partner Katie Kerner, featured two of the nation’s top experts in clergy sexual abuse: Thomas Doyle, and Patrick Wall.
Following months of litigation that has played out under seal, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released a new, less-redacted version of its 450-page report detailing decades of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Read More
The Circuit Court for Baltimore City authorized the Maryland Attorney General to release a revised, substantially unredacted version of the Attorney General’s Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This is a huge win for the survivors who seek justice, accountability, and change. The court opinion in its entirety can be downloaded here.
The Court of Appeal in Louisiana ruled that the state’s newly enacted statute which suspended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was CONSTITUTIONAL. This is another win for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Let’s hope insightful rulings like this one will sway the Maryland Supreme Court when it faces a similar question. Read the full opinion here.
The Maryland Association for Justice formed a new Sexual Abuse Section. The Section is chaired by Katie Kerner, a law partner at Jenner Law. The purpose of the section is to help legal practitioners network and provide educational opportunities in matters affecting Maryland survivors and victims of sexual abuse.
Steve Kelly leads the leader of Grant & Eisenhofer’s Sexual Assault practice. It has been more than three decades since Steve Kelly’s sister, Mary Frances, was abducted, raped, and murdered near his family’s Harford County home. As a now renowned Baltimore-based trial attorney (a Partner at Grant & Eisenhofer) and victims’ rights advocate reveals in the latest episode of Survivors Stories, searing memories of his sister’s unprosecuted murder never fade. Read More
Jenner Law partner, Katie Kerner, spoke today at the American Association for Justice annual convention in Philadelphia. Her topic: Trauma Informed Lawyering in Therapy Abuse Cases. In her speech, she teaches ways to effectuate the basic principle: Do No Further Harm. This is a principle all of the attorneys and paralegals at the firms have been trained in.
Members of each of our three firms — Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico – are pleased to announce the formation of the Survivors Advisory Board. The Board has professionals available to consult with survivors and their advocates at no charge. Let us know how we can help. https://www.survivorsadvisoryboard.com/
The Supreme Court of Colorado has ruled that legislation giving survivors of childhood sexual assault access to the courts is unconstitutional. This horrifying ruling is a reminder that Maryland’s Child Victims Act is far from safe. Read More
The Maryland Association for Justice presented a seminar on Representing Survivors of Institutional Sexual Above. The program was the first of its kind addressing the Maryland Child Victims Act which eliminated the statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault. Members of each of our three firms — Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico – spoke on selected topics. Jenner Law partner, Katie Kerner, moderated the program.
Our client, Kit Bateman, is one of those survivors who is still coming to terms with what happened to him. A priest locked him in a confessional room and tried to rape him when he was 14.“ They took my innocence, they took my soul, they took my ability to celebrate the life of Jesus every day like I liked to do, for 50 years it was gone,” Bateman said. He went from someone who was in the choir and served as an altar boy to shunning organized religion. Kit’s story was featured on WYPR radio. Read More
The Illinois Attorney General dropped a 696-page report detailing the abuse and torture of thousands of children in Illinois at the hands of the Catholic Church. The report, similar to the one released in Maryland, fielded more than 600 “confidential contacts from survivors” during the investigation. The report chronicles some of their stories. Read More
Gov. Wes Moore signed the Maryland Child Victims Act into law that will allow survivors of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits at any point in their lives. The move comes less than a week after the Maryland Attorney General’s report detailing decades of sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore went public. The attorney general’s grand jury investigation report detailed more than 600 victims had been abused over an 80-year period within the Archdiocese. And the descriptions of that abuse were graphic and sickening Moore noted.
The Maryland Attorney General today released its four-year investigation report revealing that 156 Catholic clergy members and others abused at least 600 children over the course of more than six decades. Attorney General Anthony Brown stated, “From the 1940s through 2002, over a hundred priests and other Archdiocese personnel engaged in horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children in their communities while Archdiocese leadership looked the other way,” the report reads. “Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse for as long as possible.” Read More
The Maryland Daily Record, Maryland’s daily legal newspaper, wrote a feature story on our three firms – Jenner Law, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico – highlighting our joint venture representing survivors of sexual abuse. “We’re tremendously excited about this partnership,” said Robert K. Jenner, who established his own firm in 2018. “It’s going to be really ground-breaking for people who are seeking guidance and assistance in litigation.” Rob Jenner said that he, along with Beth Graham, a principal with Grant & Eisenhofer, and Philip C. Federico, a Baltimore-based partner at Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico & Cardea, bring over 100 years of experience representing abuse survivors and other plaintiffs. Read More
Today Judge Robert Taylor issued his Memorandum and Order for Redactions of the Maryland Attorney General’s report of its four-year investigation of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Attorney General submitted a list of 200 names that is proposed warranted some degree of redactions. Judge Taylor reviewed the names and identified them in discrete categories and made various rulings on each category. As the Court concluded, “The court’s role in this process is not to make editorial decisions regarding what should or should not be in the report, or to vet the accuracy of the information in the report. Rather, the court’s role is to ensure that no grand jury secrets are disclosed contrary to Maryland law.” That he did, and did well. Judge Taylor concluded that the OAG may now release a redacted version of the Report with the rephrasing and selected redactions. At some further time, the court will conduct a hearing on the AOG’s request that a final, unredacted version of the report will be released to the Public. See full Memorandum and Order here.
Listen to the profound testimony of our paralegal, Mary Beth Diaz, explaining the impact of child sexual abuse on a family. For 2 minutes, she courageously spoke before a Maryland Senate Committee yesterday in support of Maryland’s Child Victims Act. https://www.facebook.com/jennerlawpc/videos/1126580588021405
Rob Jenner and Mary Beth Diaz go to the first of countless trips to Annapolis with clients and advocates in support of the Maryland Child Victims Act before the Maryland General Assembly. The Act seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. Today’s hearing was before the House Judiciary Committee.