A judge who works for the Mormon Church just ruled (largely) in favor of that Church in a sex abuse lawsuit brought against the organization and a former leader.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, whom we reported on when we discovered he’s a current professor at a university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just dismissed most of a woman’s lawsuit alleging rape while at the Church’s Missionary Training Center.
In a ruling handed down on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball dismissed all of McKenna Denson’s claims — with the exception of upholding a fraud claim against the LDS Church. The judge dismissed ex-MTC president Joseph Bishop from the lawsuit entirely.
Denson alleged she was raped by Bishop while a young sister missionary at the Provo MTC in 1984. She accused the LDS Church of covering up a pattern of abuse that she first began reporting in 1988. In 2017, she confronted Bishop and recorded her conversation where he admitted to some misconduct, but denied raping her. The recording wound up on the MormonLeaks website, which sparked criticism over how the Mormon church handles abuse claims.
Judge Kimball did give a minor win to Denson by allowing the case to move forward and by finding that the statute of limitations hadn’t expired in certain claims against the Church. That means discovery can proceed when it comes to the Church’s handling of the situation.
When it came to claims against the alleged offender, however, Kimball wasn’t as lenient.
The judge did conclude that the statute of limitations had expired for Denson’s case against Bishop.
“Under Utah’s catch-all statute of limitation, Denson therefore had until early 1988 to bring the action,” Judge Kimball wrote.
If you’re wondering what the “fraud” charge is all about, it claims that the Church said Bishop was “safe, honorable, and trustworthy” even though Church officials allegedly knew he was a sexual predator. So while the actual rape charges can’t be pursued against Bishop, the Church may be on the hook for lying to Denson about him.
The most perplexing thing about this whole case, to me, is that no one seems to be talking about the potential conflict of interest here. Judge Kimball is an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, which is owned by the LDS Church.
While it is pretty typical to get a Mormon judge in Utah, and that wouldn’t necessarily be a conflict, it seems entirely different if the judge is currently on the Church’s payroll. BYU’s website certainly suggests that’s the case, listing his position as “adjunct faculty” and containing his biography and contact information.
Most interestingly, this isn’t the first time Kimball has been in hot water over something like this. In 2005, Deseret News called him out on his potential conflicts of interest based on financial disclosure forms. One of those involved a “generous pension from the law firm of Parr-Waddoups,” which the newspaper said “presumably practices in the federal courts.” But a correction later added to that piece, perhaps at Kimball’s request, says that he gets no money from them at all:
U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball does not preside over cases involving his former law firm, Parr-Waddoups. A story in Wednesday’s Deseret Morning News did not make clear that Kimball recuses himself as a matter of course from any cases involving the firm. Also, Parr-Waddoups has not paid into Kimball’s 401k plan, which is managed by an independent company based in Austin, Texas, since he left the firm in November 1997.
So he doesn’t get involved in cases involving the firm since he gets a paycheck from them. That’s good! But then why is he involved in this case involving the Mormon Church despite getting paid by BYU? (He’s literally on this semester’s schedule.) It seems like a major red flag. In the meantime, the lawsuit against the Church will continue.
(Thanks to Steve for the link)