Sex Abuse Victims Will Be Indentified to Some

Quad-Cities Online [Clinton IA]
Downloaded April 10, 2004

CLINTON, Iowa (AP) -- A Clinton County judge has ruled that identities of victims who reported they were sexually abused by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport must be disclosed in civil court -- but only on a limited basis.

Only the judge, plaintiffs and defendants, their attorneys and close staff members, expert witnesses and a few other potential witnesses will know the identities, the ruling by District Judge C.H. Pelton said Thursday.

Alleged abuse victims' names will be removed from documents produced in court and changed to a pseudonym, number or letter.

The judge noted that in the event of a trial, the plaintiffs' and witnesses' identities could become public during the court process. That's why he will allow alleged victims to choose to keep their names confidential by filing a court-directed confidentiality request, which he will consider on a case-by-case basis.

The diocese faces 14 civil lawsuits filed in Clinton and Scott counties, alleging sexual abuse of boys by priests in situations ranging from 20 to 50 years ago.

In all the cases, the plaintiffs ? nine of whom have been identified only as John Doe, and another as Jack Doe ? claim church leaders failed to take action against the priests, even though they were aware of the inappropriate sexual contact.

Pelton said he believes there are sound reasons for people, whether litigants or witnesses, to maintain their privacy after reporting abuse with an expectation of confidentiality.

However, he believes the limited identity disclosures in these cases are necessary for both sides to conduct reasonable discovery and prepare for trial.

Diocese attorney Rand Wonio of Davenport said church officials already have handed out countless numbers of documents regarding the past 50 years worth of records about sex-abuse complaints in the diocese.

The attorney for a majority of the plaintiffs, Craig Levien of Davenport, said he also has disclosed the identities of his John Doe clients to the diocese since the first day the lawsuits were filed.

This order will not immediately affect a new lawsuit filed this month in Scott County by a plaintiff known only as Jack Doe against the diocese and a former Bettendorf priest, the Rev. William Wiebler. That case has not yet been consolidated into the cases that Pelton presides over, the judge said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.