Delbarton sues attorney, claims disclosing sex abuse lawsuit was confidentiality breach

(Star-Ledger) The Delbarton School is suing an attorney it says violated a confidentiality agreement by publicly disclosing terms of a 1988 settlement of a lawsuit filed by a teenager who was sexually abused by a monk at the school.

The suit, filed in Superior Court in Morristown by the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, says attorney Gregory Gianforcaro of Phillipsburg “breached the agreement” made with a previous attorney when, among other things, he “trumpeted a seven-figure settlement” during a press conference June 29 on the lawn of the Morris County Courthouse.

The suit accuses Gianforcaro of trying to “advance (his) own financial interests by attempting to improperly inflate the value of cases (he) has pending” against Delbarton and by trying to attract additional clients.

Besides the victim in this case, Gianforcaro represents six other men who joined in a lawsuit earlier this year alleging decades-old sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct by Delbarton monks.

The victim’s real name remains protected as “John Doe” as part of the agreement and he didn’t speak at the June 29 press conference.

“John Doe” filed a complaint that day asking to be released from the confidentiality agreement after the six other men came forward. “John Doe” wanted to “join others who have spoken out against abuse at Delbarton,” Gianforcaro said at the time.

At the time, Delbarton’s attorney, Michael Critchley, said “we are willing to consider the request.”

However, Critchley said today, Delbarton chose instead to pursue a new complaint after learning what Gianforcaro said at the press conference.

“Mr. Gianfacaro’s earlier request for relief was merely a charade,” Critchley said. “At his courthouse press conference, Mr. Gianfarcaro had already improperly revealed the settlement terms, thereby granting himself the very relief he was purportedly seeking in his lawsuit.”

Gianforcaro responded today: “I don’t think I did anything wrong, legally or morally. This is just retaliatory nonsense. They’re trying to use this as a way to shift the focus from the victim to the lawyer.”

The victim remains silent, Gianforcaro has said, because when the man previously asked in 2002 to be released from the confidentiality agreement, lawyers for Delbarton threatened to sue him for return of the seven-figure settlement and to seek financial damages on top of that if he spoke out.

The victim wants Delbarton officials to abide by guidelines, adopted by the Catholic Church in 2002, that ban confidentiality agreements unless requested by sex-abuse victims, Gianforcaro has said.

Delbarton’s suit, filed by Critchley, seeks damages against Gianforcaro for breach of contract, interference with contractual relations and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing.

Delbarton initially sought to file a sealed complaint in the case, but that request was denied on Oct. 23 by Judge Stephan Hansbury. The complaint was made public today in Superior Court in Morristown.

“John Doe” was abused by the Rev. Timothy Brennan, who pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual contact in 1987. Prosecutors said he showed the victim pornography and urged him to masturbate in front of the monk. The victim was between 13 and 15 at the time, court papers said. Brennan was sentenced to six months in a facility for clergy offenders,a year’s probation and a $30 fine.

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Ben Horowitz
The Star-Ledger
November 15, 2012