Papers in Suit Involving Priest Sealed
Udge's Order Involves Diocese of Scranton Turning over Information in Suit Alleging Sexual Misconduct
By Mark Guydish firstname.lastname@example.org
March 21, 2006
Scranton — A federal judge laid out a comprehensive confidentiality agreement virtually barring the public release of information that the Diocese of Scranton is turning over in a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct with a minor by a priest.
The order, issued Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, covers minutes of meetings held by the Diocesan Review Board responsible for looking into abuse cases, complaints of abuse since 1985, and a private investigation into the Rev. Albert Liberatore.
The suit was filed after Liberatore admitted to criminal charges that he had given a man identified only as John Doe, then a minor, alcohol and molested him during overnight stays at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church rectory in Duryea from 1999 to 2004. Doe's lawyer had won a fight to get the documents, but the diocese won its push to keep them confidential.
The new court order allows any "qualified person," including experts, consultants and advisors retained in the case, to see the documents only after signing a confidentiality agreement. If any of the documents are included in court filings or court actions, they must be sealed from public access.
If either side plans to use the documents in open hearings, "the parties shall give each other reasonable notice of intent" to do so, allowing both sides to negotiate "such dissemination with the letter and spirit of this order." If they cannot agree, they can petition the judge for a ruling.
The documents are apt to remain secret indefinitely. The order requires the documents be returned to the diocese after the suit ends.
Mark Guydish, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 829-7161.
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