Millstones for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis?

As a Catholic, I try to give most current Church leaders the benefit of the doubt that they’ve learned their lesson about secrecy and covering up the abuse of children by priests.  I sometimes counsel my clients that the Church has been trying to do the right thing over the last few years.

Apparently, I’m being rather naive—at least as it pertains to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Former official: Archdiocese didn’t report priest’s pornography

The story is damning, in every sense of the word. 

When the archdiocese learned of the pornography on the computer in 2004, it asked [Rev. Jonathan] Shelley to turn over all of his remaining computers for forensic analysis.


Shelley responded by destroying one of the computers with a hammer, Haselberger said.

No, that’s not suspicious in the least. 

And then they sent Father Shelley to “treatment” to “St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a treatment center that specializes in clergy psychological and sexual issues, for evaluation. When Shelley returned, he was placed back in ministry.”  And it was never reported to the police until one of the Archdiocese’s own lawyers got fed up with the lack of a response.  

The potentially criminal part comes from the materials turned over by the Archdiocese to the police:

Police asked church officials to turn over the evidence on March 5 of this year during a visit to the archdiocese’s main offices in St. Paul. The response of Andrew Eisenzimmer, the now-retired archdiocesan legal counsel and chancellor for civil affairs, to that request caught investigator Gillet by surprise.


“Eisenzimmer was visibly upset” and asked for the name of the priest involved, Gillet wrote in his report. “Eisenzimmer went so far as to say that he needed to know which property we were talking about. We were surprised with this, as it suggested to us the possibility that there might be more than one case of pornographic materials the church was dealing with.”


Gillet agreed to leave the archdiocese offices without the file containing the pornography and documents. He wrote in his report that he would call Eisenzimmer back with the priest’s name, then collect the evidence.

But church officials did not provide Gillet with anything until two days later when Tom Wieser, a St. Paul lawyer, called to say the sergeant could collect three computer disks from his office.

Read the entire article.  The failure to turn over evidence of a crime is itself a crime.  Moreover, how many other priests have been caught with pictures of child abuse on their personal computers?  Are these files on the Archdiocese’s servers?  What the Holy Hell, pun intended, is going on in Minneapolis???

The Savior of Mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, was perfectly forgiving and loving.  Yet he was unequivocal about how to treat child abusers: “But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone [about 500 pounds] were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

The fact that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis closed ranks and possibly destroyed evidence to protect itself and a potential child abuser is horrendous.  But if they failed to report child abuse, as their own former lawyer (not some “evil” plaintiff’s lawyer) alleges, then the hierarchy has entered into criminal territory.  And if indeed Shelley had a problem with viewing pictures of children being abused (as the evidence seems to indicate), and they put Shelley back in ministry after determining he was sick enough to go to St. Luke Institute for that problem, then they are getting perilously close to that millstone.  Lake Superior—just up the road a bit—is pretty deep, after all.

God have mercy on their souls.

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Friday Photo

Friday Photo

Busy, busy here, but here’s a picture from last week’s hike at Bald Mountain/McNeil Point

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Dewberry v. Kitzhaber summary judgment affirmed — Indian Casinos aren’t “in” Oregon

The latest—but probably not the last—chapter in a case that I’ve been working on for over 8 years, and that has been going on for over nearly 10 years (!), was written today.  In State ex rel Dewberry v. Kitzhaber, a group of citizens have been challenging the Oregon Governor’s ability to enter into casino compacts with Native Tribes.  I don’t like to blog on pending cases, so I will simply offer the following key passage of the Court’s rationale for upholding summary judgment against us based on whether the Governor has the authority to enter into casino compacts, despite the Oregon constitution’s prohibition on casinos:

The restriction on casinos in Article XV, section 4(10), applies to lands subject to state jurisdiction. We reject relators’ contention at oral argument that all lands—even Indian tribal lands—located within the exterior boundaries of Oregon are subject to state jurisdiction for purposes of Article XV, section 4(10). See, e.g., North Pacific Ins. Co. v. Switzler, 143 Or App 223, 233-34, 924 P2d 839 (1996) (tribal members who lived on the Warm Springs Reservation did not “reside” in Oregon for purposes of personal jurisdiction because tribes occupy their own territory “in which the laws of Oregon have no force” except with assent of tribes or “in conformity with treaties and acts of Congress” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

Slip op. at 22.  This has been an interesting case, with potential widespread impact.  The clients are going to decide whether to challenge this ruling further.  

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Another new filing today: Toddler abused by Neighbor boy, Apartment management knew he was dangerous.

My friend Erin Olson and I filed a case today on behalf of a sweet, wonderful little girl who was terribly abused by a neighbor boy at her Canby apartment.  Here’s the press release:

Portland, OR — Lawyers representing a young toddler filed suit on her behalf today against Norris & Stevens and a Canby apartment complex known as Willamette Grove apartments, alleging that the girl suffered rape and molestation at the hands of a violent and dangerous neighbor boy when management failed to warn of the risk they knew he posed.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges that the apartment complex manager had previously received multiple reports of the boy engaging in acts including threatening other young children with a knife and inappropriately peeping in the bedroom window of another young child, but had taken no action in response to the reports.

“Apartment management had ample warning that the boy posed a risk to others is in the complex, and particularly to children younger than him, and they chose to protect the boy rather than the other residents.” said Erin Olson, one of the attorneys representing the interests of the victim.

Kristian Roggendorf, another attorney representing the victim added, “Apartment complexes in Oregon have a responsibility to warn their residents about known dangers, even when those dangers are other residents.”

The suit, which names as defendants Norris and Stevens and Grand Oaks Willamette, LLC, also alleges that the apartment’s management attempted to evict the victim’s family after family members complained to management about the assault, and warned other residents with small children of the danger posed by the assailant.

This case is truly tragic all the way around.  Our client was seriously harmed, but the boy is also obviously deeply damaged.  The management’s protecting him only emboldened him to take his actions to a terrible new level, and for that, Norris & Stevens and Grand Oaks Willamette must be held to account.  It deeply saddens me that they ever allowed this boy to go so far, and yet still tried t keep it secret, even after the abuse was disclosed.

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Roggendorf Law In the Oregonian

The last few weeks have been very busy, and I haven’t posted much.   In part, this is why:

Sex-abuse lawsuit filed against Archdiocese of Portland alleging rape by notorious priest

The Fr. Grammond cases are some of the most infuriating, even after a dozen years of doing this kind of work.  How—how—could the Archdiocese ignore multiple reports of a man sexually touching boys over the course of decades???  He obviously wasn’t ever going to get “better” and wasn’t ever going to stop.   


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Friday Photo

Friday Photo

Red Rocks State Park outside of Vegas is about the only reason to go to Las Vegas. Lots of incredibly fun climbing, and the most fascinating banded rock formations.

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Good fences sometimes make bad neighbors

On October 9, 2013, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided Minihan v. Stiglich, a boundary dispute case that has festered between two West Linn neighbors for nearly a decade.  The dispute involved a communal strip of land that provided access to the Willamette River, and one neighbor’s (Stiglich) ongoing insistence—in the face of a number of surveys all to the contrary—that he owned a significant part of the the access strip (or at least the part that allowed access to the river).  As neighbor disputes tend to do, the situation got ugly on several occasions, until Mr. Stiglich finally put in a fence to stop his neighbor from accessing the river to watch July 4 fireworks in 2007.  The fence was in fact on the communal lot, but stayed up until after litigation had commenced and a final survey showed again, what all the other surveys before had shown: that the boundary of the lot matched the plaintiff’s claim.  Finally, the fence came down in 2009 following that defense expert’s conclusion.

The interesting part of this case is just how many surveys were conducted, including one by the county and recorded thereafter, and yet the defendant continued to insist that his property line was where he wanted it to be.  By my count, at least three separate surveys were conducted before the lawsuit got filed, and they all confirmed the same boundary.  The defendant, according to the Court, never offered a concrete reason for insisting that the boundary line lay elsewhere,  So not only did the jury aware $10,000 for trespass, it imposed a whopping punitive damages award of $40,000 for a boundary dispute that really existed only in one person’s opinion.

The judge’s ruling following the bench trial confirmed that the judge thought the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable.  In awarding the upper limit of punitive damages for economic harm, the judge had this to say:

I think this is one of those cases that — to send a message to yourself and to someone else who might be inclined to engage in this kind of self-help, that it’s not appropriate.

From outside the fence looking in, it sure does seem that way to me.

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Happy Leif Erikson Day!

Leif Erikson Day actually on October 9, but since we’re celebrating Columbus Day, I figured we might as well celebrate the first European discoverer of the Western Hemisphere. 

Aside from the Solutreans, that is. 

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Jerry Brown should be ashamed of his pathetic attempt to justify protecting the Church


Borwn vetoed a bill that helped the victims of child rape because it was underinclusive.

Vetoing a bill because it doesn’t extend tort liability to the government … That’s gotta be a first.

Governor Jerry Brown, the ex-seminarian, appears to still be well-entrenched with his former Jesuit instructors by vetoing the bill that would allow another window for abuse victims to bring suit against any private entity that allowed child molesters access to victims and provided cover for their crimes.   The reason was transparently bad: the bill didn’t extend to public schools.  Yeah, as if he would sign a bill that extended liability to the teacher’s union, too.  To quote the great McEnroe:  C’mon!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, public schools are a cesspit in vital need of some clearing out to remove pedophiles.  But that’s not any sort of reason to veto a bill that allows child abuse victims to seek some measure of justice for being raped as a child.  It’s like saying that the bill shouldn’t pass because there is civil strife in Somalia.  One thing has nothing to do with the other.

As a lawyer representing child abuse victims, I can forthrightly say that I would love to see this bill pass to help those victims get some relief.   Why won’t Governor Brown similarly admit his obvious bias in favor of “protecting” the Church?

Christ took a bullwhip to those defiling the Temple by using it for a commercial marketplace.  I tend to believe that He would feel the same about those who prize the monetary assets of the Church over doing right by children who were sexually victimized by trusting and believing in the priests who were supposed to act in persona Christi.  Pope Francis recognizes that the worldly money and power of the Church has been a corrupting influence, and that hoarding or squandering Church funds is something worthy of punishment.  Apparently, Brown places a higher priority on the Church’s balance sheet than on its mission to seek the truth and help the suffering.


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Burglary in Oregon requires a crime beyond just staying there

At the end of August, the Oregon Court of Appeals handed down a decision in J.N.S. v. State, A147805 (August 28, 2013), examining whether the burglary statute–requiring that a person enter or remain unlawfully in a building with the intent of committing a crime–could be satisfied simply by entering AND remaining in the building unlawfully (after all, remaining is a crime, too).

Although it would seem like a pretty easy answer to say, “No, you have to be committing a crime that is different from the ‘entering’ itself,” the Court had to spend more than a bit of time construing the statute to figure this one out.  What makes this case more interesting than a garden variety statutory construction case is what the juvenile (hence the initials) had in his backpack: a tennis ball bomb with a pixie stick wick, both filled with gunpowder.  Although possession of those items is itself a crime, it’s a reasonable question whether he was going to use them inside.  The house was vacant, but there was no evidence that he had planted the explosive.

It doesn’t seem to make much sense to have an automatic burglary (a felony) result, instead of first degree trespass (a misdemeanor), simply because the person breaking in actually went in the building for any length of time.  Not sure that logic follows when it’s a dumb kid with explosives in his backpack, but unless he lit something off inside (malicious mischief, arson, etc.), a felony charge might well be unjust.

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