Grand Jury Access to Abuse List Sought

By Kimball Perry
The Cincinnati Post [Cincinnati OH]
Downloaded November 13, 2003

Hamilton County prosecutors asked a court today to allow a special grand jury access to a list of Archdiocese of Cincinnati employees church officials admit have been accused of abusing children, but Archdiocese attorneys are resisting, adamant those and other documents are private.

Today's court hearing came at the same time a new special grand jury was being empanelled to hear evidence in the archdiocese case. The jury pool was questioned in a closed hearing before presiding Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Martin. Witnesses will be called starting Monday.

A battle has been raging for more than a year between prosecutors and the archdiocese to determine if the archdiocese has, as required by law, turned over allegations of sexual abuse by priests and other employees.

That fight, which found its way today to the Cincinnati-based Ohio First District Court of Appeals, began last year after Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk admitted child abusers remained employed by the archdiocese.

The Appeals Court must decide if prosecutors are correct in accusing the archdiocese of using the attorney-client privilege to keep records secret that prosecutors want the grand jury to see or if Archdiocese attorneys are right in saying that privilege prevents them from revealing the documents.

If the archdiocese is required to turn over the documents prosecutors want the grand jury to see it will "invade and eviscerate the (principle of) attorney-client privilege," archdiocese attorney Mark VanderLaan told a three-judge panel today.

VanderLaan also bristled at suggestions the archdiocese is being obstructionist and trying to hide evidence.

"That which is not confidential and privileged, (prosecutors) have," he said.

Moreover, VanderLaan said, all of the documents in question already have been given to the judges involved since last year when another grand jury issued the subpoena to inspect them.

"The court of appeals has all of them," VanderLaan said.

Assistant prosecutor Chris Schaefer, though, attacked the archdiocese during his presentation today, suggesting the archdiocese is improperly impeding investigations into possible crimes.

"(In some instances) Mark VanderLaan is not acting as an attorney for the archdiocese. He is acting as a custodian of the record," Schaefer told the appeals court.

Custodians, he noted, have no protection under attorney-client privilege.

Schaefer pointed to an archdiocese hiring manual that notes its attorneys have to keep records of employees and volunteers who have abused children or been accused of abuse, to detail ways they are to handle such allegations within the archdiocese as. Prosecutors want the grand jury to see those documents but the archdiocese refuses.


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