Court won't block release of abuse docs

Bridgeport Diocese disappointed by decision

WTNH Channel 8 News, Connecticut/October 5, 2009

Bridgeport - Documents detailing alleged sexual abuse by priests in a Connecticut diocese will soon be made public after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to block the release of those documents.

The records have been sealed since the Bridgeport Diocese settled the cases in 2001. Courts, in Connecticut, ruled the papers should be published. And, Monday the nation's highest court refused to block their release.

"We always felt during the course of litigation their should be no sealing," said Attorney Cindy Robinson.

Robinson and her lawfirm have represented more than 100 clergy abuse victims since the early 1990's.

"Well, they're maybe some painful information but you know in this type of a situation secrecy is always a bad thing," said Robinson.

In a statement, the Bridgeport Diocese said, "For more than a decade the church has addressed the issue of clergy sexual abuse compassionately and comprehensively. And the serious threat to the First Amendment rights of all churches and the rightful privacy of all litigants remain in jeopardy."

Victims, like Jim Hackett who was abused as a boy, disagree.

"I don't think it has anything to do with First Amendment Protection. I think it has to do with exposing people who abuse children flat and simple," said Hackett in an interview with News Channel 8 back in July.

The church had argued that only certain documents should be open to public view.

"As a result of our lawsuits in 2002, the Diocese had a special meeting with its U.S. Conference of Bishops where they formulated a Dallas charter which required a Diocese to be transparent and be open regarding complaints and information and these abuses. So, given that policy in 2002, it seems somewhat of a contradiction for them to be bringing it up to the United State's Supreme Court," said Robinson.

The decision ends a legal battle that dragged on for years and could shed light on how recently retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was Bridgeport bishop.

It's unclear when the documents will be released.

"For now, however, the serious threat to the First Amendment rights of all churches and the rightful privacy of all litigants remain in jeopardy because of the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. This, indeed, is regrettable," the diocese's statement said.

Waterbury Superior Court clerk Philip Groth said he needs to consult a judge to determine whether a hearing is necessary before the records are released. He said Monday morning it was unlikely the documents would be released Monday.

A Waterbury Superior Court said in 2006 that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision.

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