MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota survivors of clergy sex abuse say they feel more empowered tonight.

A bankruptcy judge Thursday threw out settlement plans between the victims and the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He sent them back to the negotiation table to reach a deal once and for all.

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The original settlement was for tens of millions of dollars.  But a judge’s ruling says all parties were not represented in these negotiations. He thinks the perpetrators are not being held accountable, or the parishes, and that the all parties should have a bigger voice — news that was well received by priest abuse victims.

Jim Keenan spoke at a press conference at his attorney Jeff Anderson’s office Thursday afternoon.

“Today’s ruling is phenomenal for us. It’s the not the end game, it’s a small, little victory. It’s a small victory because over 400 of us made our voices heard. That’s what’s important here,” Keenan said.

If Jim Keenan looks familiar, you’ve probably heard his story before, he is an advocate for church abuse survivors, telling his story over and over.

“My parents never once questioned their son, at 13, hanging out with a priest. In fact, they boast about it,” Keenan said.

Thursday, he along with his attorneys and fellow survivors rejoiced after finding out they will get a chance to have more of a voice and renegotiate a settlement with the archdiocese and parishes.

The decision saying everyone would get a say in these negotiations, writing, “It means those parties and their lawyers must put aside their desire to win, and decide to put together a resolution that is fair to all of the people involved.”

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They need to come to a resolution that is fair for all people involved.

“This order now requires those insurance companies, requires the archdiocese and all of them to engage with the survivors,” attorney Jeff Anderson said.

In the ruling the judge also questioned motives and the large legal fees, and their role in the negotiations, saying, “Attorney fees for the victims individual lawyers could easily run between $30 million and $40 million, which is pretty hefty sum for completing proofs of claim.”

“I would just like to say I think they are worth their weight in gold, because they are the people who are getting us where we need to be,” Keenan said of his lawyers.

The archdiocese says it’s gratified the judge agreed that the church was not acting in bad faith. In a statement, it quoted the judge saying the longer this process goes on, the less money will be available for victims.

This is the archdiocese’s full statement:

“Judge Kressel’s decision bolsters our resolve to move forward in the bankruptcy process.  We are guided by his words from earlier this year, that the longer this process continues, the less money will be available for those who have been harmed.  We note and are gratified that Judge Kressel has once again directly dismissed the assertions by creditors’ counsel that the Archdiocese has acted or is acting in bad faith regarding the reorganization.  We look to engage with all participants in mediation as directed by the judge to bring a prompt and fair resolution.”

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Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield