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Judge to Release Priest Files

Posted Jun 19, 2007 3:33 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Los Angeles judge has ruled he will allow release of confidential personnel files of clergy accused in child sex abuse cases that have settled.

Judge Peter Lichtman said the priests’ privacy rights must give way to the state’s interest in protecting children from sex abuse, the Los Angeles Times reports.

To rule otherwise “would provide the alleged perpetrators and enablers with a safe haven for settlement,” he said.

The ruling applies to 10 current and former Franciscan friars accused of sexual abuse, mostly from a former seminary in Santa Barbara. The church agreed to pay $28 million to settle a suit by 26 accusers last year.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers had sought release of the files, saying they show the church failed to end abuse and may highlight the warning signs of abuse, Associated Press reports.

The priests will still have an opportunity to object to the release of specific documents, the Times says.

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