Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Calif. Judge Sides with Media--Orders Church Leaders in Sex Scandal Be Named

Deutsch: Logo der Los Angeles Times
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ruling that the public interest in shielding children from sexual abuse trumps individuals' privacy rights, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias sided with the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press and ordered the names of the hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles ("ALA") cited in internal investigatory records of child molestation allegations not be redacted, the Times reported.

Judge Elias's ruling reverses a decision by private mediator and retired federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian, who favored blacking out the names of archdiocese staffers from the 30,000 pages of records of the ALA probe of sexual allegations that are scheduled for public release to spare the ALA further embarrassment. Judge Tevrizian had also ordered redacting the names of priests accused of a single allegation of sexual abuse of minors, which Judge Elias also overturned.

The decision to identify church leaders and purported pedophile priests in the records, some of  which contain decades-old charges of sexual molestation, evoked a predictable negative response from church lawyers, but also drew criticism from the California Psychiatric Association, according to the Times article, which addressed privacy concerns and possible harm to confidential doctor-patient relationships. Church lawyers, who already had redacted the documents in compliance with Judge Tevrizian's decision, warned that having to restore the names of church officials could delay release of the documents by months.

The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times  petitioned the court for release of the names under the California Public Records Act [Calif. Govt. Code secs. 6250-6276.48], contending that the public needed to know the names of ALA leaders to help it grasp the scope of the massive child sex abuse scandal, that the Times reported involved accusations against 200 priests and prompted payments from insurers and others of more than $720 million to settle lawsuits.

The ALA is the largest archdiocese in the U.S.  Pursuant to a 2007 settlement agreement hammered out by the ALA and 500 victims, the ALA records, said to include psychiatric files, Vatican correspondence, complaints from victims' parents and investigative reports, are to be made public.

Judge Elias supported her decision by noting that parishioners were entitled to know the goings-on in their church.
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