Court Rules Papers in Priest's Sex- Abuse Case to Remain Sealed

United Press International 1993
February 4, 1993

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has dismissed a request by a Pittsburgh newspaper to challenge attempts by the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown to seal documents in a case in which a priest was accused of sexually abusing a boy.

The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed The Pittsburgh Press' appeal because the plaintiff, who now is 25 years old and lives in Akron, Ohio, withdrew the case against the Rev. Francis Luddy, the diocese and eight other defendants.

The man charged in his lawsuit filed in Somerset County he was 9 or 10 when Luddy began abusing him, and the abuse continued until he was 16.

The diocese said the defendants denied all of the man's claims as well as claims by one of the man's two older brothers, who filed a similar lawsuit in June 1987 in Blair County against Luddy and diocesan officials. That case still is pending.

Luddy is on an extended leave of absence. He admitted in court documents filed in the Blair County case he engaged in sexual acts with the older brother of the Ohio man when he was a child.

When the Ohio man sued Luddy, the diocese and the other church officials in Somerset County, the defendants asked President Judge Eugene Fike to seal all the court records and close all proceedings from the public and the news media.

Fike refused. However, he said he would decide if various discovery documents should be made public as they were filed. The defendants appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The court upheld Fike's ruling the public had a right of access to pre-trial pleadings, motions and proceedings in civil case. However, the court ruled The Press had no right of access to discovery materials such as transcripts of depositions, documents and related records, and the newspaper lacked standing to intevene on that issue.

The Press and the Ohio man asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court ruling on the discovery issue.

Blade Communications Inc., owner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bought the assets of The Pittsburgh Press Co. and inherited the case when the sale was completed.


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