May 25, 2005

Lawyer quits trying to force files' return

The Orange County Register

The Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES An attorney who mistakenly released sealed personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse dropped an effort Tuesday to force The Orange County Register to return the documents.

The Register informally agreed to return the original documents and keep copies to use in its ongoing reporting of the case. In return, the victims' lawyer, Patrick DeBlase, told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman that he would withdraw his request for sanctions against the newspaper.

DeBlase asked the judge last week to bar newspapers from printing any of the information, which detailed how church officials covered up sexual abuse by priests. Lichtman refused to grant that request. The Register published its report Thursday.

Lichtman said during a 20-minute hearing Tuesday that the First Amendment trumps other rights and bars him from any restraints on the press. The only time a judge can place restraints on the press is for national-security concerns during time of war, he said.

Donald Wood, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, blasted the Register for publishing the information, saying the paper acted with "self-righteous arrogance."

Posted by kshaw at May 25, 2005 06:41 AM