This ruling in California has major implications for the JWs......
Ruling could give records of 2 ex-priests to grand jury
The Associated Press
September 9th, 2004
LOS ANGELES -- A judge Wednesday ordered the nation?s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese to surrender confidential records of two former priests as part of a clergy sex abuse investigation.
Thomas F. Nuss, a retired state judge appointed to review church personnel records subpoenaed by a county grand jury, said the Archdiocese of Los Angeles cannot withhold potential evidence or proof of clerical sex abuse by claiming communications between priests and bishops are confidential.
In weighing the balance between private personnel files and potential evidence of abuse, Nuss wrote in his 32-page ruling that the subpoenas don?t "have as a principal or primary effect the inhibition of religion."
The judge delayed implementation of the ruling for 30 days to allow time for possible appeals. The archdiocese said it would challenge the ruling. A lawyer for the priests also said he expected to appeal.
Prosecutors said the records could produce a paper trail of potential evidence involving the two former priests, who were not identified.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley called the ruling "a major legal victory, with national implications, for victims of church sex abuse and a rejection of a so-called First Amendment ?confidentiality privilege? which the court found does not exist."
Cooley said prosecutors have contended that "assertion of the pastoral privilege must give way to a more compelling interest. That interest is the prosecution of anyone, regardless of their status, who would molest children."
Prosecutors subpoenaed about 2,000 pages of personnel files and other confidential church records since 2002. Most of those subpoenas were dismissed in July because they dealt with allegations that fell beyond the statute of limitations.