A Letter from Attorney John Manly

John recently received a letter from a past client/abuse survivor letting him know that the OC Board of Supervisors planned to allow known sexual abuser and cover-up artist Lawrence Baird to give the invocation for an upcoming meeting. In the letter, John points out that this isn’t the first time the OC Board of Sups invited a sexual predator into their midst. Its a great read and John really puts the Board on notice.

The lettter has gotten some pretty large attention, including a featured article in the OC Weekly.

Check it out the full letter here:

Dear Supervisor Moorlach:

As you may know, this firm has and continues to represent dozens of victims of priest sexual molestation against the Diocese of Orange. To that end, one of our clients has just forwarded me a copy of the Board’s agenda for January 13, 2009 and asked that I write you on this matter. The Agenda in question indicates that Msgr. Lawrence Baird of the Diocese of Orange has been selected by the Board to give the invocation that day.

Let me be concise, on behalf of our clients, who were abused by Diocese of Orange personnel as boys and girls, please be advised they strongly object to the Board giving this honor to Msgr. Baird.

Msgr. Baird acted as a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange from 1986 until approximately 2004. The public record and the files generated in the approximately 150 lawsuits against the Diocese demonstrate that Msgr. Baird was part and parcel of the concealment of abuse at the highest levels of the Diocese of Orange. Perhaps the most offensive example is the case of Msgr. Michael Harris. In 1994, the numerous allegations received by the Diocese against Fr. Harris who was then the principal of Santa Margarita High School were made public by several of Fr. Harris’ victims or their families. The Diocese, along with its lawyers, embarked on a well orchestrated smear campaign against Harris victims. Baird, acting as the Diocese’s spokesman, strenuously denied the allegations in the press, smearing the victims and stating
that Msgr. Harris was “an icon to the priesthood” and “profoundly spiritual” all the while the Diocesan offices were in possession of a report from the St. Luke Institute (a Roman Catholic priest treatment facility) which concluded that Harris was a molester and in fact abused the children at issue. It was not until 2002 through a case where I acted as co-counsel that was it discovered that Baird, and his fellow leaders of the Diocese had mislead the public, the press and most importantly, the 20+ Harris victims that came forward after the resolution of the 2002 case. Baird’s conduct was one of the primary reasons the Diocese decided to pay 5.2 million dollars to settle that case. It remains the largest pre-trial sex-abuse settlement in the history of the Catholic Church. Msgr. Baird has never apologized.

In addition to Harris, I am aware of several instances where Msgr. Baird verbally brutalized young people who came forward to attempt to tell the Diocese that they had been molested. The instances were not isolated and demonstrate a callousness towards victims of crime. Moreover, not once am I aware based on eleven years of experience in handling these cases against the Diocese did Baird ever pick up the phone and call the police, the District Attorney or Child Protective Services. Additionally, Msgr. Baird himself was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. That case was settled by the Diocese. While I did not handle that case, it is my understanding from the press reports that Msgr. Baird denied the allegations and then unsuccessfully sued the victim for liable [sic]. It is also my recollection that there was a judgment and an attorney’s fees award against Msgr. Baird of $20,000.00, or more.

Because of the litigation, we now know that there were dozens of priests who were known to be child molesters by the Diocese of Orange hierarchy. These men were allowed unfettered access to children during Baird’s tenure at Marywood. Even if he had not engaged in any of the conduct described above, that enough should dissuade the Board from inviting him to have the honor of giving the invocation.

I should also note that this is not the first time that the Orange County Board of Supervisors has had occasion to invite those connected to the child molestation coverup in the Diocese to participate in county government. You may recall that Msgr. John Urell was asked to serve on the County of Orange Human Relations Commission when it was known that he was the point-man for the Diocese in covering up abuse and concealing it from law enforcement. After protests from victims, he withdrew his name for re-nomination.

I think the Board needs to know that the dozens of molesters who serve in this Diocese were assigned in parishes located in the district of every single supervisor serving on this Board. The victims of this molestation come from every race, creed and income bracket in the county. They have one thing in common; they were all sexually molested by priests of the Diocese of Orange. They were innocent boys and girls and in most instances, the molester priest had access to them because they and their families believed in God and were trying to live an exemplary life. No person who played a role in that abuse and its concealment, no matter how large or small, deserves a public honor. I trust you and your colleagues will agree and will arrange to revoke Msgr. Baird’s invitation.

If you have any questions, would like to review the documents or speak to some of the survivors of the abuse referenced above, please feel free to call me directly. Thank you.

Very truly yours,


Manly, Stewart & Finaldi