Monday, July 13, 2020

Interesting legal development involving suspended priest Fr. Eduard Perrone.

Assumption Grotto is well-known throughout the American Catholic world as a haven for the traditional liturgy. Fr. Eduard Perrone is the man responsible for the establishment of that haven.

So when abuse allegations were floated against him, there was considerable shock. Despite my differences with the parish (we attend the Institute's Saint Joseph Shrine for the traditional liturgy), the allegations against Perrone didn't pass a 10 yard sniff test for me.

And the more I read, the more it looked like an overzealous sheriff's detective was looking for his scalp.

The still-suspended Perrone was able to retain counsel, and filed a civil defamation suit against the detective in question, Sgt. Nancy LePage.


Now, understand that this is not a payable judgment--at least not yet. But it is newsworthy and has additional potential legal implications.



So here's where I have to risk the Pedantic Jackass Rifle and explain a peculiarity of Michigan civil law.

Under the State Constitution, Michigan's Supreme Court has full rule-making authority for civil court proceedings. This authority is embodied in the Michigan Court Rules.

One of the rules--MCR 2.403--requires that, after discovery has been concluded but before trial preparation has kicked into high gear, the parties submit to "case evaluation." Case evaluation consists of a three-attorney panel versed in the law of the case at hand. There is one plaintiff-side practitioner, one defense-side and a "neutral"--someone who has been on both sides.

Each party submits a brief containing the relevant record evidence and law supporting its position to all of the panel members. Each also requests a "valuation" for the case--a dollar amount appropriate for resolution. Each attorney meets with the panel and sets forth arguments and answers questions. Then the panel members meet and confer about the case and come to agreement on a valuation, which is then handed to the attorneys for each side a few minutes later.

Each side then has 28 days from the date of the valuation to accept or reject that number. It's a fairly mechanical process--brief, a bit impersonal, and overall one that would deeply annoy the plaintiff and defendant but for one important fact: the valuation number forces each side to think long and hard about settling the case.

Why? Two reasons.

First, if both parties accept, the sum becomes a binding judgment for that amount.

Second, and arguably worse yet, if you reject the panel's valuation, you can be on the hook for "actual costs," which includes the other side's "reasonable attorney fees":

(1) If a party has rejected an evaluation and the action proceeds to verdict, that party must pay the opposing party's actual costs unless the verdict is more favorable to the rejecting party than the case evaluation. However, if the opposing party has also rejected the evaluation, a party is entitled to costs only if the verdict is more favorable to that party than the case evaluation.

MCR 2.403(O)(1). The definition of actual costs as including "reasonable attorney fees" can be found at MCR 2.403(O)(6)(b).

"More favorable" means, with all the accrued interest and taxable costs thrown in, doing 10 percent better than the valuation. But if you accept, you are not on the hook regardless of how you do. But if you reject and your result is not "more favorable," you foot the other side's costs from the date of rejection. Which includes the trial costs, which usually dwarf everything spent during the discovery phase of the case.

I have handled one defamation case in my career, and the valuation was nowhere near $125,000. That's a sign that the panel thinks the case has merit and could explode in the County's face.

Both sides are going to play the equivalent of Texas Hold 'Em for a six-figure pot for the next 25 days. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. But if I had to guess, the one doing more sweating right now is Macomb County.



5 comments:

  1. Am I misreading this? It looks like LePage was acting for the Archdiocese, not the county.

    "James Smith, an investigator for the AOD, interviewed John Doe in August 2018 but tapped LePage to conduct the investigation, according to the lawsuit."

    So I don't think the county is sweating.

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    1. I...don't see the connection to whether the county is sweating. The AOD wanted her to do it, but what she was doing involved exercise of her job as a county employee.

      Presuming the priest to be innocent, one naturally detects a pattern often-repeated throughout the U.S. in recent years: A priest is despised by his bishop for boldly teaches Christian orthodoxy on sexual matters and favoring traditional and reverent celebration of the sacraments, so the bishop tries to rid himself of the troublesome priest on any pretext and my whatever means, fair or foul.

      But LePage remains unable to act as a representative of the AOD; she can only act as a county employee doing county business in response to information coming from the AOD, who wants her to investigate.

      So, acting in her capacity for the county, she is set loose on the priest with a presumption of guilt provided by AOD. The county's only recourse to avoid a big civil judgment is for LePage and the county to claim they were deceived by AOD: That the AOD intentionally sent them after an innocent man it didn't like, on false pretenses.

      If the county can dodge legal blame by blaming AOD, it can rest (relatively) easier; otherwise, the AOD skates and the county pays big for persisting in an unjustified persecution of a priest, a smear conducted by the county on behalf of a hostile 3rd party, even after the original investigation was supposed to have closed.

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  2. "Kolomjec said the unanimous decision following oral arguments conducted Friday by Kathleen Klaus for Perrone and chief Macomb County attorney John Schapka for LePage bode well for a positive settlement or award for his client."

    Someone was arguing on behalf of the County. Which makes sense, as LePage would have had to have permission from her employer to do such an interview in a potential criminal matter.

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    1. Lepage under the Rules and Regulations of the Sheriff's Office that I remember would have been precluded from getting permission for outside employment or "activity" as an investigator, as it has been historically prohibited to have that type of outside job. And since the defamation happened after the Department closed their "official" investigation it would appear that she went Rogue.

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  3. See the following video. There is an error regarding the arbitration results, but it does illustrate many of the wrongs with the false persecution of Fr. Perrone that resembles in many ways the wrongful persecution and imprisonment of Cardinal Pell in Australia.

    https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-two-women-and-a-priest

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Be reasonably civil. Ire alloyed with reason is fine. But slagging the host gets you the banhammer.

Wisdom from the Carlist Communion.