University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Economist and Other Media Talk to Jonathan Lipson About Catholic Church Bankruptcies

Wisconsin courts have ruled that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is on its own to pay any settlement to victims of clergy sex abuse.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, but legal experts say insurance coverage—or at least a battle over it—could still come to bear.

"I wouldn't assume the insurance question is dead yet," said Jonathan Lipson, a professor at UW Law School and author of several works on Catholic Church bankruptcies, including a recent article in the Southern California Law Review.

Lipson, who teaches a variety of business law courses at UW, spoke with the Journal Sentinel, The Economist, Milwaukee Shepherd Express, and WKOW about the case.

Insurance issues in clergy sex abuse cases are notoriously complex, because allegations may span decades and involve multiple companies and varying language. Sometimes, settlements include non-monetary requests such as the release of confidential files.

Lipson said opening up the Milwaukee archdiocese’s records could be part of a settlement. But it’s not certain that a bankruptcy judge could force a religious entity such as the Milwaukee archdiocese to do so.

“These [clergy sex abuse-related] cases push the bankruptcy system to its institutional limit,” Lipson explained. “At some level these cases are not exclusively about money. Money is obviously important, but in many cases the plaintiffs want something more than money. They want the names. They want an apology. They want a commitment about future conduct…”

To read The Economist article, click here.

To watch the WKOW interview, click here.

To read the January 19 Journal Sentinel article, click here. For the January 22 article, click here. For the February 7 article, click here.

To read the Milwaukee Shepherd Express article, click here.

Submitted by UW Law News on May 19, 2011

This article appears in the categories: In the Media

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