Judge or­ders re­lease of info in suits over clergy abuse

Arch­dio­cese can ap­peal be­fore un­seal­ing Wed­nes­day

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY OLIVIER UYTTEBROUCK JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

A wide va­ri­ety of church doc­u­ments and other records filed in cler­i­cal abuse law­suits against the Arch­dio­cese of Santa Fe will be­come pub­lic Wed­nes­day un­der a rul­ing handed down by an Al­bu­querque judge.

District Judge Alan Malott ap­proved a re­quest from a tele­vi­sion sta­tion to un­seal court records re­lated to three for­mer pri­ests who have been named in dozens of law­suits dat­ing to the 1990s. The for­mer pri­ests are Sabine Griego, Ja­son Sigler and Arthur Per­rault. Per­rault has fled the coun­try.

Malott said he de­layed pub­lic dis­clo­sure of the records un­til Wed­nes­day to al­low par­ties in the case to con­sider whether to ap­peal the rul­ing. An at­tor­ney for the arch­dio­cese did not re­ply to a phone mes­sage Thurs­day.

In his or­der, Malott re­jected the arch­dio­cese’s ob­jec­tion that pub­lic dis­clo­sure of court records would en­dan­ger the church’s right to a fair trial. The church no longer de­nies that pri­ests sex­u­ally abused young boys and girls in their parishes, he wrote.

“The court in fact, takes no­tice that church lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Pope Fran­cis

him­self, has pub­licly ad­mit­ted that cler­i­cal abuse oc­curred and has called for the church to ad­mit its mis­takes and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them,” Malott wrote.

Records sub­ject to dis­clo­sure in­clude “com­mu­ni­ca­tions by and between var­i­ous church per­son­nel in the Arch­dio­cese of Santa Fe and other Arch­dio­ce­ses na­tion­ally,” Malott wrote.

The records con­tain cor­re­spon­dence of three arch­bish­ops of Santa Fe, he wrote. Malott did not iden­tify the arch­bish­ops.

De­tails in the records about the three pri­ests in­clude “spe­cific in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing their be­hav­ior to­wards young boys and girls in the parishes as well as their su­pe­ri­ors’ knowl­edge of the same, and how that in­for­ma­tion was han­dled by church of­fi­cials,” the or­der said.

The records also in­clude “plead­ings, de­po­si­tion tes­ti­mony, in­ves­tiga­tive re­ports and set­tle­ment pro­ceed­ings” in le­gal cases against the three pri­ests, it said.

Records avail­able for pub­lic view­ing will not in­clude set­tle­ment amounts paid by the arch­dio­cese, nor the names of al­leged vic­tims.

Malott is­sued the or­der in re­sponse to a re­quest by KOB-TV LLC, which filed in July as an in­ter­venor in seven cler­i­cal abuse cases for the pur­pose of ob­tain­ing court records.

The records were ob­tained in the course of law­suits filed by Al­bu­querque at­tor­ney Brad Hall, who has filed more than 70 law­suits since 2011 on be­half of al­leged cler­i­cal abuse vic­tims. Hall com­piled the records to sup­port “time­lines” he uses in on­go­ing law­suits against the arch­dio­cese.

Levi Mona­gle, an at­tor­ney in Hall’s firm, said the rul­ing is a vic­tory for vic­tims of cler­i­cal sex­ual abuse in New Mex­ico and across the U.S.

“It mat­ters a lot for peo­ple to see the doc­u­ments them­selves,” Mona­gle said. “It’s a big deal.”

Malott wrote in his or­der that he spent about 20 hours re­view­ing the records. He made that ob­ser­va­tion by way of re­ject­ing the arch­dio­cese’s ob­jec­tion that the dis­clo­sure would re­quire an “un­due amount of time and ef­fort” by the court.

“Given the sig­nif­i­cance of the is­sues in th­ese cases, such ex­pen­di­ture was nei­ther bur­den­some nor un­duly time con­sum­ing,” Malott wrote.

Sabine Griego

Arthur Per­rault

Ja­son Sigler

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