|Court Orders Release of Therapy Reports Franciscan Friars Kept on Alleged Molesters
By Kate Moser
October 1, 2010
A California appeal court today authorized the public release of confidential files on Franciscan friars accused of sexual abuse.
The friars had fought the release, which was included in a $28.5 million settlement reached in 2006 after plaintiffs in 25 separate lawsuits sued the Franciscan Friars of California, alleging they had been sexually abused by clergy members.
In upholding the trial court, a California 2nd District Court of Appeal panel held that the compelling social interest of protecting children outweighed the individual friars' privacy rights.
"Indeed, all citizens have a compelling interest in knowing if a prominent and powerful institution has cloaked in secrecy decades of sexual abuse revealed in the psychiatric records of counselors who continued to have intimate contact with vulnerable children while receiving treatment for their tendencies toward child molestation," wrote Justice Elizabeth Grimes in the published opinion. Justices Laurence Rubin and Madeleine Flier concurred.
At issue were 154 pages of psychological evaluations or progress reports prepared for the church by psychotherapists who examined the friars. Some of the friars argued on appeal that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman violated their privacy interests.
The friars were represented in John Doe v. Franciscan Friars of California , B215775, by Robert Howie and Audrey Smith of San Mateo's Howie & Smith. Brian Brosnahan and David Thomas of the San Francisco office of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman represented the Franciscan Friars of California.
The plaintiffs attorneys were Timothy Hale of Nye, Peabody, Stirling & Hale and Anthony De Marco of Kiesel, Boucher & Larson.
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