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"Secret Archives" Cannot Prevent Some Records from Subpoena

Court ruling applies to documents that do not interfere with religious freedom.

Key point: Churches cannot protect certain records from the subpoena power by placing them in a "secret archive."

• Can a church avoid inspection of its records in a civil lawsuit by placing them in a location that it designates as a "secret archive"? No, concluded an Ohio appeals court. A Catholic priest, and his church and diocese, were sued on account of the alleged sexual molestation of a minor child by the priest. The lawsuit claimed that the church and diocese were legally responsible for the priest's behavior on the basis of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. In preparation for trial the victim's attorney sought to inspect documents in the possession of the diocese pertaining to the sexual misconduct of the priest, including any notes or summaries made by psychologists with whom the priest had consulted. The diocese acknowledged that ...

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  • September 1, 1995

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