Eighteen pending cases against Vermont's Roman Catholic Diocese will be tried together.
Superior Court Judge Helen Toor says it would take too long to try all the cases individually, so Tuesday she ruled that they be lumped into one trial.
Most of the 18 cases are claims from former altar boys at Christ the King church who say that Father Edward Paquette molested them.
Three cases against Father Alfred Willis will also be tried together.
Tom McCormick, the lawyer for the diocese, says he is not sure if a combined trial will be better for his clients, but he is hoping to avoid it through mediation which is scheduled to happen before April 1.
"We intend to make every effort to settle the cases," McCormick said. "If they don't settle then we'll face a joint trial. What exactly that will mean remains to be seen. There's never been anything like that in the state as far as I can see. There have been very few instances of this nationally."
Last week, the diocese reached a settlement with one former altar boy. He was awarded nearly $9 million by a jury in 2008, but the award was under appeal. Part of the settlement allows the diocese to sell its office building and other properties it owns to pay other victims.
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