Attorney Carolyn M. “Cammie” Nichols and paralegals Esther Lopez and Sonia Salazar have been for the past several years diligently pursuing claims against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on behalf of clients who are survivors of sexual abuse by priests; first in litigation, then in bankruptcy court after the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection due to the sheer volume of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it. (There are 375 claimants in the bankruptcy proceeding.) Justice is finally at hand – the survivors of abuse in the bankruptcy proceeding recently voted overwhelmingly (99% in favor) to approve a settlement of their claims for more than $121.5 million, one of the largest bankruptcy settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States.
The settlement includes an agreement by the Archdiocese to create a public archive of the University of New Mexico documenting the history of sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese and the many claims of sexual abuse made against the Archdiocese. The archive will serve as a testament to the bravery of each survivor, will hold the Archdiocese publicly accountable, and will, it is hoped, prevent such abuse from occurring in the future.
Settlement will bring this matter to a close. Within the next few months, the years of work will be concluded, and the survivors can hopefully live out the rest of their lives with a sense of closure and the knowledge that they, each and collectively, stood up to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. We are deeply grateful to the survivors that allowed us to represent them over the last four years.
Esther Lopez has been a point of personal contact for our clients for several years, as many of them began this journey with cases in active litigation and then found themselves embroiled in the bankruptcy process. Sonia Salazar more recently joined the team and spent hours interviewing clients so that they could relay their individual stories of survival in video statements for the claim evaluator. We, and our clients, rely heavily on Esther and Sonia and are grateful for their exceptional dedication.
Attached to this blog post is the press release from the bankruptcy counsel to the Official Creditors Committee (“OCC”) which includes more on this topic.