Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Gleeson grants dismissal, denies sanctions in suit involving priest’s alleged sexual relationship

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Oct 6, 2017

St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson denied sanctions and granted the Diocese of Belleville’s motion to dismiss after it argued that a woman with a doctorate degree shows no evidence of being mentally disabled and unable to consent to a sexual relationship with a priest.

In his Sept. 19 order, Gleeson wrote that the case is fully and finally resolved after granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint with prejudice.

“Subsequently, it was brought to the Court’s attention that Plaintiff had asserted a Rule 137 motion for sanctions against Defendant in her brief opposing Defendant’s renewed motion to dismiss. To eliminate any doubt regarding the finality of the Court’s prior order of dismissal, the Court hereby expressly denies Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions,” he wrote.

Laura Merleau-McGrady filed the suit Oct. 11, 2016, against the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, alleging she disclosed private information about herself to Rev. Osang Idagbo. She claims he used the information to manipulate her into a sexual relationship.

In her second amended complaint, the plaintiff alleged she could not legally consent to the claimed sexual contact with Idagbo because she suffers from bipolar disorder, “a legally recognized disability,” and the religious counseling she received allegedly created “mental duress” and an “imbalance of power” that deprived her of the ability to consent.

The Diocese of Belleville sought dismissal, arguing that her educational, professional and personal achievements demonstrate that she was a competent adult fully capable of consent. The motion was denied on June 20.

The defendant filed a renewed motion to dismiss on Aug. 17 through attorneys Catherine Schroeder, David Wells and David Mangian of Thompson Coburn in St. Louis.

It explains that Merleau-McGrady is a 51-year-old college instructor living in China seeking to assert a negligent supervision claim against the Diocese over an alleged affair she had with a 42-year-old Vincentian priest assigned to the Ss. Peter and Paul parish since 2008.

Diocese of Belleville filed its renewed motion after receiving the answers to its first request for admissions, allegedly establishing that the plaintiff “is not and never has been legally disabled.”

The defendant explains that the plaintiff has been married and divorced twice and did not allege she was legally disabled or lacked the capacity to consent to sexual relations in either divorce case. She earned a post-graduate doctorate degree in English from the University of Kansas.

Diocese of Belleville also argues that Illinois law “expressly forbids sexual abuse claims premised upon spiritual and religious counseling.”

Merleau-McGrady filed a response to the renewed motion to dismiss and sought sanctions on Sept. 11 through attorney Jessica D. Arbour of Chicago.

She argues that the court denied the defendant’s previous motion to dismiss on June 20, and the renewed motion “provides no basis upon which the Court may consider it.”

She alleges the renewed motion is barred procedurally and that the court heard arguments on the same law and facts in the defendant’s previous motion.

“This remains true despite Defendant’s continued inappropriate and highly prejudicial attempts to poison the Court against Plaintiff in clear and unambiguous violation of the plain language of the statutes upon which it seeks relief,” the response states.

Merleau-McGrady alleges the renewed motion to dismiss is basically a motion for reconsideration of the court’s June 20 ruling.

She adds that the renewed motion provides no new information to change the court’s previous order, but instead seeks to guess why Gleeson ruled the way he did.

“One simply cannot tell why the Court ruled as it did, though ultimately it did so correctly, of course. It would be inappropriate to require the Plaintiff to speculate or to agree with Defendant’s assertions as to why the Court ruled as it did. Therefore, it is nothing short of a herculean task to ask Plaintiff to respond to a ‘renewed’ motion to dismiss … when she does not know if Defendant’s position is even accurate or not …” the response states.

Merleau-McGrady claims the defendant has made “blatant mistakes” in an effort to delay litigation or increase costs and should be sanctioned.

“Because of the numerous flaws and lack of a good faith basis to have filed this Renewed Motion, Plaintiff is left with no choice but to seek sanctions under Rule 137 to recuperate the time and costs expended in defense of this copy-cat motion.

“When considered in total, the shortcomings of the Renewed Motion amount to an unnecessary delay in this proceeding, and an unreasonable burden upon Plaintiff that, if not addressed immediately, could lead to an open-ended cycle of similar motions being filed whenever Defendant obtains a ‘fact’ that it thinks should leave the Court to conclude dismissal is appropriate, as if this were a summary judgment motion,” the response states.

Diocese of Belleville filed a reply memorandum in support of its renewed motion to dismiss on Sept. 11.

“Rather than address the compelling substance of the Diocese’s renewed motion to dismiss, Plaintiff seeks to divert the Court’s attention away from the insuperable legal deficiencies of her Complaint by asserting imagined and hypertechnical procedural flaws in the Diocese’s filing.

“Those claimed flaws are squarely rebutted by controlling Illinois law, and Plaintiff’s purported reliance on them only further highlights the deficiencies of her suit. Because Plaintiff’s Complaint is riddled with incurable legal flaws, it should be dismissed with prejudice,” the reply states.

The defendant argues that it didn’t learn of the evidence of Merleau-McGrady’s competence as a fully capable adult until it received the admitted facts after its first motion to dismiss was denied.

“Because Plaintiff has not and cannot controvert these facts establishing her legal competence – and indeed has expressly admitted them in verified answers to the Diocese’s Requests to Admit – the Diocese’s renewed motion to dismiss should now be granted,” the motion states.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on Sept. 19 and denied the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-537

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St. Clair County Circuit Court Thompson Coburn LLP