Child Abuse Case Successes
Attorney Kelly Clark (deceased) has secured tens of millions of dollars for his clients in monetary settlements and judgments in child abuse cases, and–even more importantly in terms of the search for justice and closure–has secured significant non-monetary concessions for his clients as well: letters of apology, public accountability, meetings and seminars concerning prevention of child abuse and agreements by the institutions of trust—Catholic Church, Mormon Church, Boy Scouts, schools, athletic leagues, etc—in which the abuse occurred to make radical changes in their child abuse policies. These institutions are safer than they were even a decade or two ago, in part thanks to the courage of the childhood abuse survivors who have stood up to tell their stories, and in part to the persistence and doggedness of lawyers like Kelly Clark.
Kelly Clark’s commitment to child abuse survivors began when he was a member of the Oregon Legislature in 1989-1993. Serving on the House Judiciary Committee, he was deeply moved by testimony from child abuse survivors and later became one of the chief sponsors of the extended civil statute of limitations for adults abused as children, now codified at ORS 12.117. This statute was one of the first in any state to recognize the reality that child abuse survivors often cannot acknowledge, or understand their abuse, or their damage, until well into adulthood. Since then, dozens of other states have adopted similar legislation.
While serving in the Legislature, Kelly was a chief sponsor of a bill that would ban on possession of child pornography. Working with law enforcement, and also with civil liberties groups concerned about potential infringements on free speech, Kelly Clark helped push through one of the first laws in the nation to impose criminal penalties on the actual possession, and not just the production, of child pornography.
Just a few years later, Kelly Clark was again fighting the child pornographers, filing a “friend of the court” brief before the Oregon Supreme Court in a case challenging the constitutionality of the child pornography statute described above. A unanimous Supreme Court upheld the statute.
Kelly Clark (deceased) brought the first two cases in the modern wave of childhood sexual abuse cases against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America. It took seven years of hard litigation beginning in 1994—including a successful argument before the Oregon Supreme Court—before the cases were settled. But in Fearing v Bucher and Archdiocese of Portland, 328 Or 367, 977 P2d 1163 (1999) , and Lourim v Swenson and Boy Scouts of America, 328 Or 380, 977 P2d 1157 (1999) , Kelly won a landmark victory and judicial recognition of some of the realities of child abuse, including the “grooming” process used by child abusers. The case was especially significant for its original theory that “institutions of trust” such as churches and youth organizations should be liable for child abuse in their midst. It was this victory that helped swing open the door for the wave of litigation against the Catholic Church in 2001, which many observers believe has made the Church, and other institutions of trust, much safer for children. Click here and here to read the Supreme Court decisions in these cases.
Beginning with those cases, Kelly—often working closely with lawyers like Kristian Roggendorf, or with Portland lawyers David Slader and Mickey Morey, Seattle’s Mike Pfau, California’s John Manly, and others—has successfully represented over 150 men and women in cases against the dioceses or Archdioceses of Portland, Baker, Seattle, Boston, Orange, Los Angeles, and is currently (2007) litigating against the dioceses of Omaha, New York, the Military Vicariate, as well as those previously mentioned. Other Roman Catholic entities against which Kelly has successfully brought cases include the Franciscan Friars, the Benedectines, the Redemptorists, the Paulist Fathers, the Servites, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and numerous orders of nuns.
In 2002-03 he fought, and won, dozens of claims against the Paulist Fathers, a religious order headquartered in New York, for abuse by one Rocco Perone, a once charismatic and popular Paulist who was a serial child abuser, and along the way Kelly won battles over discovery, claims of religious liberty, and punitive damages.
When the Archdiocese of Portland filed bankruptcy on the eve of a major trial in July, 2004, Kelly was one of the leading lawyers representing claimants in that proceeding, successfully resolving cases for over 40 men and women. Along the way, the lawyers working for the survivors of abuse, including Kelly, defeated an attempt by the Archdiocese of Portland to claim that hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate was not owned by the Archdiocese, but rather by individual parishes.
Not satisfied simply to obtain monetary justice for his clients and keep the secrets of child abuse hidden, Kelly, along with attorneys David Slader, Mickey Morey, and Erin Olsen, among others, fought, and won, a battle to force the Archdiocese of Portland to open the files of abusing priests, so that the public could at last understand what the bishops knew and when they knew it, concerning child abuse in the Church. This agreement is one of the few times anywhere in the nation where a diocese has been forced to “open up the files.” Kelly believes that by shining the light of day on long-hidden secrets, institutions like the Catholic Church can be made safer for children. For articles on this groundbreaking development, click here.
Kelly has written and spoken extensively on the topic of child abuse in the Catholic Church, including newspaper editorials, professional publications and scholarly journals. For a sample of some of these presentations, click here.
Bringing his considerable expertise on public policy and constitutional law to bear on the child abuse cases, in 2007 Kelly authored, along with Kristian Roggendorf and Peter Janci—two other lawyers working with him on child abuse cases at his firm O’Donnell Clark & Crew LLP—an article published by the University of Oregon Law Review, entitled “Religious Liberty Issues in the Priest Abuse Cases.”
Kelly’s work against the Boy Scouts goes back to the mid-1990’s when he took the first of the current wave of cases against the Scouts (see discussion of Fearing and Lourim cases above). Since the successful resolution of the Lourim case after the Supreme Court win, Kelly has handled or is handling nearly a dozen other cases against Scouting organizations.
In 2003 and 2004, Kelly, working with co-counsel, won a settlement from the Scouts in the context of an Explorer Scout who had been abused by a police officer in the City of The Dalles, Oregon. The case against the Boy Scouts was settled some months before trial, and former OC &C associate Jonathan Clark won a strong verdict at trial against the City of The Dalles. That judgment is now on appeal before the Oregon Supreme Court, where significant issues of the statute of limitations in child abuse cases will be decided.
Currently (2007) Kelly is fighting on behalf of another ten clients in several different cases who were abused by Scout leaders– often in affiliation with various entities of the LDS (Mormon) Church. Watch these pages for developments.
Kelly began fighting for those abused in the context of the Mormon Church in 2005, and is now representing nearly a dozen men who were abused by elders, missionaries, home teachers, and others in positions of LDS callings. In 2007, Kelly, along with former OC&C associate Kristian Roggendorf, won major pretrial victories against the LDS Church on disputed legal questions such as the statute of limitations, punitive damages and– most significantly– won a ruling from the trial court, backed up by the Oregon Supreme Court, that the LDS Church release its financial records. Perhaps not surprisingly, the case settled immediately after that decision, a settlement that included both monetary restitution and agreements on changes to the Church’s child abuse policies. For news coverage of this significant case, click here.
Also beginning in 2007, Kelly Clark brought a case on behalf of six men against the LDS Church, with claims of harboring a serial child abuser in Portland, several times criminally convicted and yet still allowed around children. The issue in that case is the extent of knowledge that the LDS authorities had about its child abuse problem in Portland and nationally. Stay tuned or click here for developments.
In addition to the above, Kelly Clark (deceased) has brought dozens of cases against “institutions of trust” including entities such as:
Oregon Gymnastics Academy
Portland Public Schools
Parkrose Public Schools
24 Hour Fitness Centers
State of Oregon Department of Human Services
St Mary’s Home for Boys
The Christie School
City of The Dalles, Oregon
The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church