New Orleans lawyer fined for alerting school to priest’s past sexual misconduct

By Ramon Antonio Vargas
TheGuardian.com
New Orleans lawyer fined for alerting school to priest’s past sexual misconduct | New Orleans | The Guardian

A New Orleans attorney who represents victims of clerical sexual abuse faces a $400,000 fine after alerting a local Catholic high school that a priest who worked there once admitted to fondling and kissing a teen girl he met at another church institution.

The lawyer, Richard Trahant, said he would appeal against the hefty sanction handed to him on Tuesday, which stemmed from a federal judge’s ruling that his alert violated confidentiality rules governing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the local archdiocese.

A spokesman for the archdiocese – the second-oldest in the US, serving about 400,000 parishioners – declined comment other than to say: “The wisdom of the judge’s ruling speaks for itself.”

At the center of the dispute is a priest named Paul Hart, who officials found kissed, groped and at least once engaged in what the church described as “dry sex” – simulated intercourse while clothed – with a girl who was a senior in high school and participated in a youth group at a church where he was assigned in the early 1990s.

Hart was then in his late 30s. The girl was 17. By 2012, she had learned that after other assignments, Hart was returning to the church where they met and which ran a school her children then attended.

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