March 16, 2005

Secret justice hides risks

USA Today

Secrecy can kill, as Americans found out during the summer of 2000.
For weeks, the news media were filled with stories of disastrous car wrecks and deaths in the 1990s that were linked to some Firestone tires. The company recalled 6.5 million tires — too late for the more than 200 people killed and the hundreds injured.

They may have died needlessly. Information about possible safety defects had been locked in lawyers' files for years. Scores of victims had sued Bridgestone/Firestone, and the tiremaker had settled — but the terms were secret. Documents were suppressed at the company's insistence, and lawyers couldn't discuss them. ...

Among the dangers hidden:

•Abusive priests Catholic priests who sexually abused children were concealed for decades with the help of courts. The Catholic Church settled victims' lawsuits secretly and insisted on orders to seal documents. Today, some courts are still protecting church secrets. In 2003, a Connecticut appeals court ruled that the court files in 23 sexual-abuse lawsuits filed against the Diocese of Bridgeport should remain under wraps.

Posted by kshaw at March 16, 2005 06:00 AM