St. Paul archdiocese vicar ordered to answer more questions

By Richard Chin
Pioneer Press
June 25, 2014

The Rev. Kevin McDonough, , formerly vicar general of the archdiocese.

Former priest Thomas Adamson

A former top official in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will have to undergo further questioning in a sexual abuse lawsuit against the church, according to a decision Wednesday by a Ramsey County judge.

The Rev. Kevin McDonough, former vicar general for the archdiocese, had been required to give depositions in a lawsuit about the church's handling of child-abusing priests.

District Judge John Van de North ruled in a hearing on the lawsuit of a plaintiff known as Doe 1. Doe 1 is suing the archdiocese, alleging former priest Thomas Adamson molested him in 1976 or 1977 when Adamson served at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park.

Van de North also said Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt won't be questioned again by attorneys suing the church.

Doe 1's lawyers were back in court Wednesday, seeking to compel the two to be deposed again.

Plaintiff's attorney Jeff Anderson said the two church officials should go through another round of questioning because the archdiocese failed to turn over files about accused priests in enough time for the lawyers to review them in advance of the deposition sessions.

Nienstedt had been questioned about four hours, but Van de North denied Anderson's request to question him for another 90 minutes. Van de North said Nienstedt didn't seem to have firsthand knowledge of many of the issues when he was questioned before.

"I don't know if there's much to be gained by having Father Nienstedt to come back," Van de North said.

But the judge said McDonough, who was also the archdiocese delegate for safe environment, was a more central figure in the church's dealings with accused priests.

"He's so in the middle" of the issue, Van de North said. "McDonough is still fair game."

He said Anderson could question McDonough for another 2-1/2 hours.

At Wednesday's hearing, lawyers for Doe 1 and the archdiocese also sparred on other evidence that the church should turn over to the plaintiff's lawyers.

Doe 1's lawyers asked Van de North to compel the church to turn over "electronically stored information," including computer files and the actual computers, laptops and smartphones of some church officials.

The archdiocese officials have said they have turned over more than 46,000 pages of clergy file documents and 5,500 pages of electronic documents in a PDF format.

But Michael Finnegan, another Doe 1 lawyer, said the archdiocese needs to turn over its computer files in a "usable" or "native" format, such as the original Word or Excel files that could be examined to show who created the document, when it was created and if there were any deletions.

"My impression is this is a little bit of a mining process, looking for smoking guns," Van de North said. "You want to drill down and get more and better information."

Finnegan said the Winona diocese, which is also being sued, has agreed to turn over 100,000 electronically stored documents, even though it has many fewer accused priests than the Twin Cities archdiocese.

Winona diocese spokesman Joel Hennessy said that the diocese is reviewing more than 100,000 emails and electronically stored documents as part of the lawsuit discovery process, but that the total number ultimately to be turned over to Doe 1's lawyers is not yet known.

Archdiocese lawyer Thomas Wieser said Doe 1's lawyers were making an "expensive and unprecedented discovery request." He said the electronic information request could end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to fulfill.

Finnegan estimated the cost would amount to $200.

The lawyers also argued over information that had been removed from the files already turned over by the archdiocese and whether the archdiocese was obligated to turn over records from its priest personnel board.

Van de North said motions regarding information removed from the files turned over by the archdiocese should be submitted to another judge acting as a special master in the case.

He said he wanted to see affidavits from computer experts on both sides of the case and see summary judgment motions to be heard July 21 before he decides on issues regarding the electronic information.





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