Archdiocese Ordered to Give Investigator's Notes to Family Suing over Alleged Priest Child-sex Abuse
By Matt Miller
June 7, 2018
|A state appeals court has ordered the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to turn over notes its investigator made while doing interviews for its defense of a lawsuit alleging priest child-sex abuse.|
The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia can't escape a judge's order to hand over notes its investigator made while interviewing witnesses to prepare its defense against a lawsuit in a priest child-sex case, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.
That call was made in a Superior Court opinion by Judge Jack A. Panella which denied an appeal by the diocese challenging an order requiring it to provide those notes to lawyers for the family of Sean Patrick McIlmail.
McIlmail died of a drug overdose at age 26. His family is blaming his death on sexual abuse they claim the Rev. Robert L. Brennan inflicted on him starting when he was 11 years old. They contend diocese officials, including Monsignor William Lynn, knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
The issue Panella's court decided was whether the archdiocese must provide the McIlmail family's attorneys with the interview documents compiled by a private investigator hired by the archdiocese's counsel.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who was appointed to resolve evidentiary disputes in the case, determined witness statements obtained by either side in the suit were discoverable and so should be provided to opposing counsel on demand.
McIlmail's lawyers provided such information when the archdiocese requested it. Panella noted the archdiocese balked when asked to provide data on interviews its investigator conducted.
On appeal to the Superior Court, the archdiocese argued that its interview notes should be ruled off limits because they fall under the aegis of attorney work product.
Panella cited state Supreme Court has ruling that attorney work product cannot be disclosed so far as it involves the mental impressions, conclusions opinions, notes, memos or legal theories of the lawyer. The investigator's interview notes don't fall under that protective umbrella, however, Panella found.
"The production of the documents requested by McIlmail will, in no way, infringe upon the protection granted to an attorney's work product," he wrote. "These documents relate solely to factual information obtained by the investigator from potential witnesses and do not reflect, in any manner whatsoever, the thought process of the attorneys involved."