The Buffalo News is reporting that a federal grand jury has issued a subpoena as part of an investigation involving clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo.
The subpoena was served on two retired judges, former state Surrogate’s Court Judge Barbara Howe and former Appellate Division Justice Jerome Gorski, for records they reviewed as part of a compensation program established by the Buffalo Diocese for victims of clergy abuse.
Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program
The Diocese of Buffalo created the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) on March 1, 2018. The IRCP was one of many compensation programs established by catholic dioceses throughout New York State for victims of clergy sex abuse.
The Buffalo Diocese hired Judge Howe and Justice Gorski to serve as administrators of the IRCP. As administrators, Howe and Gorski reviewed the cases of abuse victims who applied to the IRCP. The administrators then decided whether to reject or accept an applicant’s claim and determined the amount of an award for applicants who were offered settlements.
Attorneys for Sexual Abuse Victims Notified
Lawyers representing sex abuse victims who applied to the IRCP were notified that a subpoena had been served for files related to their client’s case.
Barry N. Covert, who represents over 40 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, was one of the lawyers notified that a subpoena had been served to the IRCP administrators for records related to one of his clients.
Mr. Covert’s client, Stephanie McIntyre, is one of seven IRCP applicants whose records were sought in the subpoena reported by The Buffalo News. As a teenager in the 1980s, Ms. McIntyre was sexual abused by a priest who was in the Buffalo Diocese. In December 2018, Mr. McIntyre accepted a $400,000 settlement from the Buffalo Diocese’s IRCP.
When asked by the Buffalo News for details on what the subpoena was for, Mr. Covert stated “everything that the judges reviewed in determining the claim”.
Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuit vs. IRCP Process
The Buffalo Diocese established the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program almost a full year before New York State signed the Child Victims Act in to law. Due to New York State’s statute of limitations at the time, applying to the IRCP was one of the few options available to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
As The Buffalo News story states, the structure of the IRCP did not allow abuse victims’ lawyers access to diocese files as they attempted to build a case for their clients. The IRCP process differs greatly from a civil litigation matter such as a lawsuit filed under the Child Victims Act. In civil litigation matters, attorneys for all parties involved are made aware of evidence or testimony brought forward in the case.
As we try to determine the impact of the latest subpoena, The Buffalo News ponders if the subpoena served on the IRCP’s administrators will give federal investigators access to documents or correspondence from the diocese that were not provided to victims’ lawyers.
More Information on Sexual Abuse Victims Rights
If you would like additional information regarding the legal rights for victims of childhood sexual abuse, please click here to contact attorney Barry Covert via e-mail or call 716-849-1333, ext. 365.