|Judge: Lawyer Can Have the Names, but for Now He Can't Make Them Public.
By Jeff Strickler
April 20, 2009
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona do not have to make public a list of Roman Catholic priests suspected of sexual abuse, Ramsey County Judge Gregg Johnson ruled Monday.
Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney who was seeking the list as part of a lawsuit he has filed on behalf of an abuse victim, had said that he was going to make the list public as soon as he got it. Anderson was given the list Monday, but he is barred from revealing its contents.
Lawyers for the church had argued that because church leaders thought the list would remain private, they had included on it everyone who had been accused, regardless of whether the charges were proven.
The list still can be used in the trial, which is scheduled to start June 1, but now hearings must be held before any names are released.
In an April 8 hearing before Johnson, Anderson argued that the list should be made public to protect children from the men, who have been removed from the priesthood but many of whom still live in the area.
In his ruling, Johnson agreed with Anderson "that the public has a right to have information regarding individuals who have engaged in the sexual abuse of children" but said such a right must be balanced with the damage that can be done from "potentially wrongful allegations."
"The court believes that it would be inappropriate to allow plaintiff's attorneys to publicize the names of the individuals in question until the court has ruled on the admissibility of this evidence at trial," Johnson wrote.
Anderson, who specializes in clergy sex abuse cases, said he was disappointed by the ruling, "but that it doesn't do anything to dampen my resolution for doing everything I can to get this information out there.
"As long as this information is secret, as long as only the archdiocese knows it, the kids in this community are not safe," he said. "And I'm troubled by that."
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