November 05, 2005

Media moves closer to diocese abuse files

HARTFORD (CT)
The Connecticut Post

DANIEL TEPFER dtepfer@ctpost.com

HARTFORD The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that news media have standing to seek secret court files that could expose how the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport hid abuse by priests.

The state's highest court overturned an Appellate Court ruling and ordered a Superior Court judge to hold hearings on whether the media and the public should be allowed to see the files, which are related to the diocese's settlement of cases of priests abusing children.

"Although the newspapers' interest in the withdrawn cases is limited in the sense that they do not have, and never have had, a stake in the outcome of those cases, they, and the public, do have a legitimate interest in the contents of the court's files," Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the 3-to-2 majority.

"We are reviewing today's decision carefully regarding cases which were settled fairly by a federal judge in 2001 with the agreement of all parties," Bridgeport Diocese Spokesman Joseph McAleer said. "We are determining what our options are and will decide how to respond. If it is necessary to return to the Superior Court for further proceedings, as the Supreme Court has instructed, we are prepared to go back and present to the court the important issues that remain unresolved." Jason Tremont's Bridgeport law firm Tremont and Sheldon represented more than two dozen people, who claimed they were abused as children by priests in the Bridgeport Diocese. The lawsuits resulted in more than $30 million in settlements. Tremont said Friday his firm has always supported opening the files to the public.

Posted by kshaw at November 5, 2005 07:38 AM