Conn. Catholic Diocese Appeals Court Order Opening Sex Abuse Files

December 28, 2006

The Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. has appealed a Superior Court judge’s ruling that thousands of pages of court files involving lawsuits against priests accused of sexual abuse be made public.

The case could return to the state Supreme Court, and the files concerning allegations of sexual abuse by as many as 23 priests in the diocese could remain sealed.

Lawyers for the diocese notified a Superior Court in Waterbury late last week of plans to appeal the decision of Judge Jon M. Alander to unseal nearly all of more than 12,000 documents that have been under seal since the diocese settled sexual abuse claims by 23 individuals in March 2001.

The court filing did not indicate on what grounds they plan to appeal Alander’s ruling. Hartford lawyer Ralph W. Johnson III, who is representing the diocese, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, The Hartford Courant reported Wednesday.

Alander ruled Dec. 6 that the public has the right to view the sealed documents, saying that keeping the documents secret to ensure a fair trial is no longer relevant. He ruled about a year after the state Supreme Court said the files should be open to the public and sent the case back to the lower court.

The Supreme Court endorsed a 2002 lower court ruling, which the diocese appealed, that gave newspapers the right to seek access to the documents. The Courant, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post sought to unseal the documents in 2002.

The abuse cases in question, which involved more than 23 victims, were settled in March 2001. The Courant obtained copies of some of the sealed documents about a year after the settlement, including depositions taken of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop of New York, who was bishop of the Bridgeport diocese from 1988 to 2000, and other diocesan officials.

Stories detailing how Egan and other officials in Bridgeport ignored accusations or protected abusive priests were published in The Courant in 2002. The stories were based on depositions from the lawsuits, documents from the personnel files of accused priests and other diocesan memorandums.


Information from: The Hartford Courant,

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