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Miramonte student abuse case: mediation moved to LA Superior Court

July 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The legal battle in the Miramonte Elementary School sex abuse scandal moved to a new court Wednesday after an expiration date set for a settlement has passed.

For attorneys representing the families and children in the Miramonte sex abuse case, it's a new court and a new judge.

"I'm hoping that with this judge, things will improve and get serious," said attorney Luis Carrillo.

The case is still moving along in the children's court a few miles away, but attorneys told Eyewitness News the mediation hearings there have not been going well. Some hope they might be able to come to a settlement in County Superior Court.

"Our judge has told us that judicial resources are very limited. They have laid off 300 people or so, so they're trying to conserve judicial resources by seeing if these cases can be resolved, so that's why they're sending us to this building," said Carrillo.

The LAUSD has offered to pay about $47 million to settle 98 of the claims by families whose children were allegedly molested by former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt.

Berndt is accused of 23 counts of lewd acts with children. According to the lawsuits LAUSD officials knew as early as 1990 that Berndt was involved in sexual misconduct.

"We think that the settlements that have been offered to this point are fair, but we look forward to the process that's going to unfold here," said LAUSD spokesperson Sean Rossall.

Wednesday's meeting with attorneys was held behind closed doors. Officials expect very little information will be released to the public.

"Most of the conversations are going to be confidential mediation sessions. I think actually all of them will be confidential mediation sessions. But again, it's all in the vein of moving this closer towards resolution and doing it in a way that's respectful for the families," said Rossall.

"I'm hoping that the judge we are now seeing will knock some sense into the Los Angeles Unified School District and send a message to them that they're going to need to pay more money to these families to compensate them, number one, and number two, they need to include in any settlement reform within the school district to safeguard children," said attorney Brian Claypool.

Even as they begin to talk about a settlement, attorneys say they are moving forward with their civil case. There are depositions scheduled for next week.


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