Abuse claims extension denied in Rochester Diocese bankruptcy
On July 29, a federal bankruptcy judge denied a motion by the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors to extend by five months the Aug. 13, 2020, deadline for filing proofs of claim against the Diocese of Rochester in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul R. Warren set the Aug. 13 deadline — known as the “bar date” — back on Feb. 25. August 13 also marks the original closure of a one-year “window” created by New York state’s Child Victims Act for the filing of sexual-abuse claims that previously were prohibited by statutes of limitations.
Due to potential delays in New York state courts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the CVA’s deadline for filing claims to Jan. 14, 2021. However, the bankruptcy proceedings take place in federal court, and thus were not subject to Cuomo’s executive order, the diocese noted in a May 14 statement.
Nevertheless, in a July 13 motion filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the creditors’ committee asked Warren to extend the bar date by five months to coincide with the new state cutoff.
In his July 29 decision, Warren noted that federal courts have operated electronically and without interruption. Since the virus was first identified in this area in mid-March, he noted, “172 of the 175 sexual abuse proofs of claim in this Chapter 11 case were filed with the Claims Agent. And, nearly 250 entries were made on the case docket, reflecting brisk and on-going activity in this case, during the same period of time.”
Warren added that law firms specializing in childhood sexual-abuse cases have continued using the bar date of Aug. 13 in their television advertisements. This fact, he said, rules out the potential for confusion about the actual bar date.
In addition, Warren noted that the Rochester Diocese has continuously and effectively publicized the Aug. 13 filing deadline as well as availability of “proof of claim” forms, which must be submitted by claimants for the bankruptcy court’s review. This information has been circulated through a mailing to more than 100,000 households; notices in the Catholic Courier, daily newspapers in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo, and USA Today; on the diocesan website; on parish websites and bulletins across the Diocese of Rochester’s 12 counties; and on diocesan, Catholic Courier and parish social media accounts.
Warren further observed that the bar date is almost a year after the diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 12, 2019, and that claimants will have had 170 days between the Feb. 25 announcement of the bar date and the Aug. 13 deadline to file proof of claim forms.
“The nearly one-year period, between the filing of this Chapter 11 case and the claims bar date set by this Court, is extremely generous as compared to other Diocesan bankruptcy cases,” Warren wrote.
A copy of Warren’s order is available at https://case.stretto.com/rochesterdiocese/orderconfirmingbardate.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Proof of claim forms — a general form and another for claims of sexual abuse — are still available at https://case.stretto.com/rochesterdiocese and should be filed by Aug. 13, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Persons with questions regarding how to file a proof of claim can obtain additional information by calling 855-347-3773.
Victims of abuse should always report to the civil authorities. To report a case of possible sexual abuse and to receive help and guidance from the Diocese of Rochester, victims are encouraged to contact the victims’ assistance coordinator, Deborah A. Housel, at 585-328-3228, ext. 1555 (toll-free 1-800-388-7177, ext. 1555) or by email to victims firstname.lastname@example.org.