Lawsuit against Priests Spills across Border
Evaluations of the Two Men Accused of Molestation Are Being Fought over in U.S., Canadian Courts
By Mark Guydish
Times Leader [Scranton PA]
October 8, 2004
SCRANTON - The legal battle between two Diocese of Scranton priests and the man who accuses them of sexual abuse has spread into three courtrooms and two countries. So far, the priests are losing.
The civil lawsuit started in the U.S. Middle District court, where a man identified as John Doe and his parents accused the Revs. Eric Ensey and Carlos Urrutigoity of molesting him when he was a teenager.
The priests helped found the Society of St. John, which first settled in St. Gregory's Academy - a school for boys in Elmhurst attended by Doe - before moving to Shohola, Pike County. The alleged abuse began at St. Gregory's.
But the case has sprawled beyond the Middle District Court in Scranton because of psychological evaluations done on the two priests in Canada. Doe's attorney pushed for the right to see those documents, contending that doctor-patient privilege does not apply because results were shared with then-Bishop James Timlin.
Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III agreed. Mandating tight confidentiality rules, he ordered Urrutigoity's evaluation results turned over. He delayed ruling on Ensey's results because he had not seen them.
The priests' attorneys appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia. A three-judge panel recently rejected the appeal, but the attorneys are trying to have the appeal heard "en banc," meaning by all the third circuit judges. The odds of an en banc hearing are slim.
While the appeal winds through the third circuit, based in Philadelphia, the two sides are duking it out in the Superior Court of Ontario, Canada, where the priests' attorneys have tried to stop Judge Jones from seeing Ensey's evaluation.
Doe's attorney asked Jones to file an order that would essentially meet Canadian legal criteria to force the evaluation's release. In a ruling this week, Jones agreed to consider doing that, and ordered both sides to file paperwork making their arguments.
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