• August 30, 2019

Mr. Terrance Davis alleged that he was sexually abused by a priest, Father William Graham, and Mr. Davis brought a lawsuit against Father Graham arising out of the alleged sexual abuse.

Not only did Father Graham vigorously deny Mr. Davis’ allegations. He sued Mr. Davis for interfering with his employment with St. Michael’s Parish in the Diocese of Duluth (“tortious interference”) and he sued Mr. Davis for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Mr. Davis sought to have Father Graham’s lawsuit thrown out of court. That effort failed to dispose of the case.

The case went to a jury and the jury found in favor of the accused pedophile, Father Graham, awarding him $13,500 on his tortious interference claim. Mr. Davis appealed the adverse jury verdict (always a tough sell) and his appeal was unsuccessful.

Assuming we take Mr. Davis at his word as to his allegations (which seem corroborated by evidence of his reporting the abuse, alleged to have occurred in 1977, repeatedly to several people over the decades (see here at page 4)), this has to have been a devastating loss to Mr. Davis.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals made the loss all the more frustrating by seeming to lay the blame, at least in part, on the the lawyering:

In summary, we stress that appellate courts want to reach the merits of the issues on appeal. However, the party seeking relief bears the burden of providing the appellate court with an adequate record. The lack of an adequate record in this case prevents this court from addressing appellant’s arguments in full.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Unpublished Decision at p. 11

The Court of Appeals seems to have been particularly troubled by the absence in the record on appeal of the diocese’s internal investigative report. See here at p. 8. This internal investigative report appears to have included an internal investigative board conclusion that the board “believe[d] the accusations of T.J. Davis to be credible and that Father not be returned to ministry.”

The trial court excluded “evidence relating to the Catholic Church’s internal investigation.”

Davis made no offer of proof showing how evidence concerning the diocese’s internal investigation would support his defense, and the record on appeal does not include a copy of the investigative report.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Unpublished Decision at p. 8

We covered a related challenge just days ago — the challenge of preserving objections for appeal. These pointers cannot be emphasized enough.

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