BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A Superior Court judge has ruled that sealeddocuments from priest sex abuse cases in the Bridgeport Roman CatholicDiocese should be open to the public.
Judge Jon Alander's ruling Wednesday is the latest in a long runninglegal battle pitting the diocese against several newspapers.
Alander ruled that the public has the right to view sealed courtdocuments from nearly two dozen sex abuse lawsuits against theBridgeport diocese that were settled in 2001, saying that keeping thedocuments secret to ensure a fair trial is no longer relevant.
The Hartford Courant, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and TheWashington Post, sought to have the documents unsealed in 2002.
"The public's right of access to those documents is particularly strongin these cases due to the extraordinary public interest in knowingwhether minors in Connecticut were sexually abused by priests employedby the Diocese and whether the Diocese was responsible for perpetuatingthat abuse," Alander wrote.
However, Alander's ruling does notmean the newspapers will get to review the documents anytime soon.Alander placed a 20-day stay on release of the documents.
The diocese said Wednesday it is "considering what we believe to be significant grounds for appeal in this matter."
Alander exempted some documents from public release, including thosesubject to a health care privilege and the names of two priests whohave never been publicly identified.
Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the diocese, said it is disappointed in the decision.
"Judge Alander acknowledges that these sensitive materials areprotected by recognized legal privileges, but he has decided to releasethem to the public anyway," McAleer said in a prepared statementreleased Wednesday evening.
Alander's ruling comes about a yearafter the state Supreme Court cleared the way for the documents'release by asserting that court records are open to the public. TheSupreme Court then sent the case back to the lower court.
TheSupreme Court's decision endorsed a 2002 lower court ruling, which thediocese appealed, that granted the newspapers the right to interveneand seek access to the documents.
The abuse cases in question, which involved more than 23 victims, were settled in March 2001.
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com
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