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Judge Refuses To Seal Lawsuits Involving Alleged Sexual Abuse By Louisville Priests

Jul 11, 2002 | AP A judge has denied a request by the Archdiocese of Louisville to seal more than 150 lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by priests.

The archdiocese had asked in May that the documents be kept secret, and Jefferson County Circuit Judge James Shake heard arguments in the case two weeks ago and issued his ruling Thursday.

"From here, we go to the light of day," said William McMurry, the attorney for nearly all 154 plaintiffs. "Everything the archdiocese does applying to these cases will be under public scrutiny."

In its motion, the archdiocese cited a 1998 state law requiring documents in child sex abuse cases to be sealed if the alleged abuse took place more than five years earlier. Most of the recent cases involve alleged abuse that occurred more than 30 years ago.

Shake's ruling said the law applied only to lawsuits naming the perpetrator as a defendant. The recent suits name the archdiocese and Archbishop Thomas Kelly as defendants, but not the priests.

The archdiocese also argued that priests should not be named publicly until they were found guilty of a crime. Only one of the 20 priests who has been named has been indicted. The Rev. Louis Miller, named in 63 of the lawsuits, was indicted last month on 42 felony counts of sexual misconduct. He has pleaded innocent.

Spokesman Brian Reynolds said Thursday the archdiocese still objects to releasing the priests' names, but will not appeal.

"We remain concerned about the importance of protecting the rights of innocent people," he said. "However, we are not afraid of facts coming out concerning these cases."

The plaintiffs claim they were sexually abused by clergy or church employees when they were children. They claim church officials were aware of the abuse but did nothing about it.

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