U.S. Supreme Court rules against Bridgeport diocese

After years of legal wrangling, the Diocese of Bridgeport may soon have to release all those documents relating to sex-abuse lawsuits.

From the AP:

*****

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.

Ralph Johnson III, a lawyer for the diocese, said church officials were considering whether to ask all nine justices to rule on the request.

Jonathan Albano, attorney for three newspapers who requested the documents, said the ruling compels the diocese to release the documents, but he acknowledged the church could ask the full court to reconsider Ginsberg’s decision.

“At the end of the day, the diocese will be able to say they were heard before every court that was available to them,” Albano said.

Albano represents The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. The three papers along with the Hartford Courant have asked to see the documents.

A Waterbury Superior Court said in 2006 that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access. And the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision, ruling that more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests should be unsealed.

The Connecticut high court also rejected the claim by church officials that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.

The records have been under seal since the diocese settled the cases in 2001. They could provide details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

The documents include depositions, affidavits and motions.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.