Ex-priest Harrison on hook for $220k over failed defamation case

The former Roman Catholic priest owes the money after losing his defamation lawsuit.

A Bakersfield judge ordered former Roman Catholic priest Craig Harrison to pay over $200,000 in legal fees as part of his defamation lawsuit. 

Harrison could be ordered to pay even more if his other defamation case goes against him later this month. 


The backstory: Harrison was the former priest at Bakersfield’s St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and was suspended in 2019 in the face of allegations accusing him of inappropriate sexual misconduct. 

  • The ex-priest resigned from the parish in 2021 after a lawsuit against Fresno Diocese Bishop Joseph Brennan and former Diocese spokeswoman Teresa Dominguez the year before. That lawsuit was settled last year. 
  • In 2019, Roman Catholic activist Steven Brady – who runs the organization Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc. – held a press conference that discussed allegations from 15 years prior that accused the ex-priest of sexual misconduct. 

The big picture: Harrison filed a defamation lawsuit against Brady, but a Fresno appellate court dismissed the case last year. 

  • Kern County Superior Court Judge J. Eric Bradshaw ordered Harrison to pay Brady $219,800 in attorneys’ fees. 
  • Brady had requested the fee rate at $573.50 per hour, but Bradshaw reduced the payout to $297.50 per hour to reflect local rates. 

What we’re watching: Harrison also filed a lawsuit against Justin Gilligan, a Benedictine monk who also accused Harrison of misconduct. 

  • Gilligan won that lawsuit, and the hearing to determine further attorneys’ fees payment is set for later this month. 

What they’re saying: Brady told the Bakersfield Californian that he is relieved with the decision that has been a heavy financial burden on his organization. 

  • Harrison’s attorney Craig Edmonston told the publication that he strongly disagreed with the ruling. 
  • “In California, the courts keep narrowing the rights of victims of defamation,” Edmonston said. “The effect of this appellate court ruling is that would-be defamers have a license to lie with impunity, meaning no accountability.”
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