2 Nov 2010

Catholic diocese in Connecticut is appealing to U.S. Supreme Court to keep sex abuse documents sealed

USA Today - Associated Press July 17, 2009

Church appeals to High Court over abuse case

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep sex abuse documents under wraps.

Bridgeport Diocese officials asked the state Supreme Court to continue a stay on releasing the documents while it appeals to the nation's highest court.

The state court has ruled that more than 12,000 pages of documents from more than 20 lawsuits against priests should be released. Those documents have been sealed from public view since the diocese settled the cases in 2001.

The records could reveal details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was Bridgeport bishop from 1988 to 2000. Egan's deposition should be in the file, according to an attorney for the newspapers seeking the documents.

The diocese faced a Monday deadline to appeal before the records were disclosed.

"The diocese believes there are important constitutional issues," said Ralph Johnson III, attorney for the church. "These are issues important to all citizens."

Johnson acknowledged that the nation's highest court takes up only a small percentage of cases it is asked to review.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Hartford Courant have been seeking the documents. A telephone message was left Friday for an attorney for the newspapers. Court officials declined to comment.

A Waterbury Superior Court judge ruled in 2006 that the files should be unsealed, but the diocese appealed. The high court agreed with the trial court that the documents, which include depositions, affidavits and motions, were subject to a presumption of public access.

Church officials say the ruling fails to uphold the privacy and constitutional rights of all parties to lawsuits, especially when cases are sealed, and contends that disclosure of the sealed documents is barred by the religious clauses of the First Amendment.

The state Supreme Court rejected church officials' claim that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.

In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned after church records were released detailing his role in handling sexual abuse claims.

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