March 09, 2005

Diocese takes shot at DA


11:25 PM PST on Tuesday, March 8, 2005

By MICHAEL FISHER and MIKE KATAOKA / The Press-Enterprise

The Diocese of San Bernardino is asking a judge to return a defrocked Inland priest's personnel file, arguing that Riverside County prosecutors improperly seized the documents while investigating the former cleric who was later charged with child molestation.

The Jan. 25 search warrant, the first ever executed at the diocese's headquarters in San Bernardino, violated federal and state constitutional standards, diocesan lawyer Bill Lemann argued in court papers filed Friday.

Lemann also contends the seized personnel file for Jesús Armando Dominguez contains privileged paperwork, and that prosecutors failed to follow California laws that require a third party, dubbed a special master, to be present during such searches to secure sensitive records and review their relevance.

"Given our positive relationship with the district attorney's office in the past, it is surprising that they attempted to go beyond what the law allows by seizing confidential, personnel and medical records," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the million-member diocese, comprising Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask said that although his office acted properly he will now require a special master be present during searches involving potentially privileged documents.

Posted by kshaw at March 9, 2005 05:35 AM