Attorneys clash over release of church documents

Star Tribune

Updated: July 30, 2014

Attorneys clashed in court Wednesday over how much data the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis must release in two lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a priest.

The hearing before Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North involved two men, John Doe 100 and John Doe 104, who allege in separate suits that the Rev. Thomas Stitts abused them in the early 1970s. Both suits allege that the church was aware of previous allegations of sexual misconduct by Stitts years before he allegedly abused Doe 100 and Doe 104 at St. Leo’s Church in St. Paul and St. George’s parish in Long Lake, respectively.

Attorneys Patrick Noaker and Craig Vernon filed a motion to compel the church to release more documents about other priests who allegedly abused children and church “communications” about sexual misconduct, among others. The documents will help show there was reason to suspect that Stitts was capable of abusing children, Noaker said.

Archdiocese attorney John Gunderson argued that Noaker’s motion was too broad and the suits’ claims were “amorphous.” The church has provided all of its documents on Stitts, about 1,000 pages of paperwork and electronic data, Gunderson said. The other data are beyond the scope of the lawsuits, he added.

Van de North asked attorneys to submit additional written arguments in August. He told Noaker to narrow the time frame and scope of his request.

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