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Judge shields archdiocese fund from creditors

Father Jim Connell, left, the former vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee stands with Peter Isely, second from left, the Midwest Director of SNAP, The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, and victims, Arthur Budzinski, of West Allis, Wis., and Kevin Wester, right, while addressing the media regarding release of Milwaukee priest sex abuse files on the steps of the the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee on Monday, July 1, 2013. Budzinski holds a poster of the 45 priests named on the archdiocese's website as having substantiated allegations of sexually abusing at least one minor. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel,Mike De Sisti)

Father Jim Connell (left), the former vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, addresses the media regarding release of Milwaukee priest sex abuse files on the steps of the the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee on July 1. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel,Mike De Sisti)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal judge says money that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has placed in a cemetery trust can be shielded from creditors in sex-abuse settlements.

The ruling released Monday is a victory for the Archdiocese, which has more than $50 million in the cemetery fund. Sex-abuse victims have accused the archdiocese of transferring money into the fund to avoid paying it to them.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa ruled that the archdiocese had the right to set aside the money under the First Amendment’s protection of free exercise of religion. The decision now sends the case back to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley.

The cemetery trust was formed in 2007 by then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011 to deal with hundreds of sex-abuse claims.

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