Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ex-judge named to tribunal

Three-member panel will disburse compensation to priests' victims

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Former Hamilton County Judge Ann Marie Tracey was appointed Tuesday as the first member of a tribunal that will disburse up to $3 million to victims molested by Catholic priests.

Tracey, a life-long Catholic who retired this year as a Common Pleas judge, will represent the Archdiocese of Cincinnati on the tribunal.

The creation of the tribunal and the compensation fund were part of a settlement last week between the archdiocese and Hamilton County prosecutors that ended the county's criminal investigation into allegations related to past clergy sex abuse. Under terms of the deal, abuse victims may apply for compensation as long as they agree not to sue the church for damages.

Critics of the fund, including several lawyers representing victims, have said the archdiocese is trying to underpay victims while insulating itself from lawsuits.

But Tracey said she sees the fund as a way to help the church, the community and the victims heal.

"Hopefully we all will be able to work together to provide some closure to these really devastating cases," she said.

Tracey, who now teaches at Xavier University, presided over many sexual abuse cases during her tenure as a judge, but none involved Catholic priests.

She was one of several judges assigned to hear civil cases against former priest George Cooley, but those were all settled out of court.

The other members of the tribunal have not yet been appointed. The next member will represent the prosecutor's office and the first two appointees will select the third.

Prosecutor Mike Allen said he will announce his choice soon. The tribunal is expected to begin work early next year.

Church officials have said the $3 million will come largely from the sale of archdiocese property. "None of it will come from parish collections, the archbishop's annual fund drive or any other fund drive," church spokesman Dan Andriacco said.

Tracey said the first job for the tribunal is to determine how claims will be evaluated and compensation determined.


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