Next Friday, in Courtroom 480 at City Hall, they're scheduled to pick a jury in the civil case of Billy Doe vs. the Archdiocese of Philadelphia et al.
The case still bears that title even though in August, the archdiocese settled with Billy Doe for a undisclosed pile of cash. It's an unholy pact that should have prompted every Catholic in town to demand that their archbishop tell them how much.
There are still three defendants left in the civil case; three men who went to jail for sexually abusing the credibility-challenged former altar boy turned heroin addict and accused dealer: ex-priest Edward Avery, the late Father Charles Engelhardt, and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero.
In the case of Shero, Judge Rosalyn K. Robinson ruled this morning that she was granting the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in part. "It is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed," the judge wrote, that "defendant Shero is collaterally estopped from denying or disputing that he committed the acts of sodomy and sexual abuse alleged in plaintiff's complaint."
A similar motion in the case of Avery is expected to be granted as well. That means for defendants Shero and Avery, rather than be allowed to contest the alleged sexual abuse of Billy, the civil trial, scheduled to begin Nov. 9th, would just become a hearing on how much more in damages should be awarded the plaintiff, to compensate for his alleged pain and suffering.
But here's where it gets interesting. Judge Robinson said she'll be ruling on the motion for summary judgment next week in the case of the late Father Engelhardt. And since the jury in Engelhardt's criminal case reached no verdict on the most serious charge, a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, the judge may allow the civil jury to decide what actually transpired between the priest and the altar boy.
"Our argument is that a civil jury should be allowed to decide what assault if any occurred," said Thomas R. Hurd, the lawyer defending the estate of the late priest.