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Lujan calls foul on mediation

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Defense Attorney David Lujan has never been one to mince words, and he only needed one to describe what he thinks is happening with mediation in the child sex abuse cases against local clergy. And that word is "scam".

Loud and clear - Lujan blasted the Archdiocese of Agana and Archbishop Anthony Apuron in federal court on Monday. "Of course it's a scam," he professed. When asked the why he elected to proceed with mediation if you believe its a scam, he replied, "Because mediation is non-binding, either."

In court today, attorney Lujan alleged the plaintiffs and the court are being "played by the Church and Apuron." Lujan questioned their motive to rush resolution and further alleged there's a deal to ensure Apuron stay a priest and remain on Church payroll.

"But ask yourself, do you think that Apuron, who has a chance of coming back wants to bankrupt this archdiocese? Ask yourself that," he said.

Apuron's attorney Jacque Terlaje fired back, calling Lujan unprofessional for not only his accusations, but also for yelling in the courtroom. Ultimately, the court ruled in Terlaje's favor and denied the motion to stay on Apuron's cases.

That means the four lawsuits against Apuron will proceed in the federal court - and soon - a hearing on Apuron's motion to dismiss is scheduled for August 29.

Terlaje re-iterated today that her client will not participate in settlement talks.

Terlahe said, "ADR is alternative dispute resolution, meant for the purpose of allowing parties to attempt to reach a resolution without going through a litigation process. The problem that I've always said in this particular case is that we are rushing to judgment. We cannot determine a settlement damage amount without first determining liability and the court agreed with me today. The court said a litigant has the right  to proceed in every case, and Archbishop Apuron has simply asked the court to make a determination on the constitutionality on the law passed by our legislature.

"And that gives him the ability to ask the court to dismiss this case should the court find it in his favor."

The remaining 73 cases will proceed with settlement talks.

Oregon-based retired federal Judge Michael Hogan will serve as mediator. He's scheduled to meet with parties in Hawaii next month and arrive on Guam in late October. Lujan tells KUAM he hopes to settle as much as 75-percent of his cases via mediation, especially for victims who want resolution and fast. Those are the victims who are elderly.

The remaining cases will return to court.

"There's a chance mediation will be done even before the court finishes with its ruling, because what's going to happen is on August 29 there will be a hearing," said Lujan. "And then after that, the court makes a decision - Judge Manibusan's role is simply to make a recommendation, and it goes up to judge Gatewood."

Also appearing via phone, Attorney Michael Patterson who is co-counsel for the Archdiocese expressed his concerns.

Should the court rule on Apuron's motion to dismiss, he stated it could have implications on the Church and jeopardize their insurance coverage and assets.

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