Diocese loses bid to seal abuse documents
Accusers' names to be kept private in bankruptcy case
SAN DIEGO -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego lost a bid to seal documents that would detail sex abuse allegations against priests, but the judge overseeing its bankruptcy reorganization ruled that the accusers' names can be kept secret.
Judge Louise DeCarl Adler said that bankruptcy proceedings are inherently public.
The Associated Press and Copley Press Inc., publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, challenged the diocese's request to seal financial disclosures and "pleadings, reports, and other documents" if they identified victims.
A lawyer for the news organizations said the breadth of the request by the diocese could prevent abuse allegations from being made public.
"Secrecy tends to grow like Topsy, and we're trying to stop that," the lawyer, Susan Seager, said after Wednesday's ruling.
Adler ordered the diocese and lawyers representing more than 140 people who filed abuse claims to agree on a method to redact names of alleged victims who wish to be anonymous.
In court filings, the diocese said it was trying to prevent the release of accusers' names, which it said could be defamatory.
"Claimants should not be forced to make their identities public in order to participate in this reorganization," the diocese argued.
Susan Boswell, a lawyer for the diocese, said in court that she was willing to negotiate a mechanism for redacting the names of people wishing to remain anonymous, as long as it didn't slow the bankruptcy proceedings.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection Feb. 27, just hours before the first civil trial was scheduled to begin in San Diego Superior Court. In that case, a Colorado woman accused a priest of forcing her to have sex in his parish office in 1972 when she was 17.
Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego wrote in a letter posted on the diocesan website last month that he would publicly name every accused priest, but he did not say when. Diocesan lawyer Micheal Webb said the timing would be "a pastoral decision."