April 25, 2005

Maine Supreme Court Orders Priest-Abuse Records Released to Papers

Editor & Publisher

Published: April 25, 2005 11:55 AM ET

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) The Maine supreme court on Friday ruled that the state must make public investigative records about 18 now-deceased Roman Catholic priests who were accused of sexual abuse of minors.

In a split decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that the attorney general must release the files to Blethen Maine Newspapers, owner of the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel.

However, the names and identifying information of family members, friends, and others associated with the cases must be removed from the records when they are released.

Justices struggled with balancing the public interest in the priest sexual abuse scandal with privacy concerns for witnesses, family members, and sexual abuse victims through the decades.

"On balance, the identified public interest exceeds the privacy interests associated with the records once they are redacted," Justice Jon Levy wrote for himself, Howard Dana, and Susan Calkins. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley concurred in a separate opinion.

Jonathan Piper, a Portland attorney who represents Blethen, said the ruling is a clear victory for the newspapers. He expects both sides to go back to Superior Court to determine how and by whom the records will be handled to remove the information that identifies people other than the deceased priests accused of sexual abuse.

Posted by kshaw at April 25, 2005 04:40 PM