April 29, 2005

Sex files on dead priests must be released

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

April 28, 2005 -- Investigatory files pertaining to never-prosecuted allegations of Roman Catholic priest sex abuse must be released by Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe because the privacy interests of the 18 dead priests and their families don't outweigh the public's right to know about how the department conducted the investigation, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled April 22 in a sharply divided opinion.

Newspaper publisher Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc. -- owner of the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec (Augusta) Journal and the Waterville Morning Sentinel newspapers -- requested the records, pertaining to 18 dead Roman Catholic priests, from Rowe's office in June 2002. Rowe refused to release the files, citing an exemption to state open records law for documents whose release would be an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

The newspapers sued, and Superior Court Justice Kirk Studstrup ruled in their favor in 2003, declining to even require redaction of alleged victim and witnesses names. Rowe appealed.

A 4-3 majority of the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial court's ruling that the records must be released, but permitted victim and witness names to be redacted.

Posted by kshaw at April 29, 2005 08:02 AM