Court recommendation says emails between the Saints and Archdiocese of New Orleans will remain confidential in church sex abuse lawsuit

Court recommendation says emails between the Saints and Archdiocese of New Orleans will remain confidential in church sex abuse lawsuit
(Source: Rob Masson)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Special Master Carolyn Gill-Jefferson recommended Thursday that emails between the Saints and the Archdiocese of New Orleans remain sealed.

“The Special Master recommends that discovery in this matter continue out of the public realm and proceed in accordance with the Court’s Protective Order entered herein on October 28, 2019,” said Special Master Carolyn Gill-Jefferson in her report. “The only reason for disclosure of The Saints documents is to embarrass or bring under public scrutiny those individuals who sought to assist and support the Archdiocese.”

The recommendation is part of a civil lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese and defrocked deacon George Brignac. The Associated Press and attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims have argued that the emails should not remain confidential in the case.

In previous court filings, lawyers for those alleged victims say the Saints helped put together the list of credibly accused clergy released in 2018 and that a Saints communications executive advised the church on how to handle damage control following the release of that report.

The AP argued the case is a matter of significant public concern.

“The law is very clear that if a lot of the information is already public and if the parties involved are talking about it in the public then that means there is less reason for privacy and confidentiality and there is more reason for disclosure to the public,” said Associated Press attorney, Mary Ellen Roy in February.

But, a Saints attorney argued while trials are public, discovery is not. Instead, the attorney argued in court February 20th that parties in this case should only use the emails to prepare for trial and the emails should remain private until there is a trial.

Lawyers for the Archdiocese argued there is a move to use the emails to try to embarrass or annoy the individuals involved including the Archdiocese.

In response to the Special Master’s report Thursday, attorneys representing alleged church sex abuse victims said, “Obviously, we strongly disagree with Special Master’s Report and Recommendations. We will file our objections pursuant to the proper procedure and seek a ruling from Judge Hazeur, the trial judge presiding over this case.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP said, “We are disappointed that a court-appointed special master has chosen to avoid bringing “embarrassment and public scrutiny” to public relations staffers who reportedly helped the Archdiocese of New Orleans cultivate its woefully inadequate list of accused priests.”

An attorney representing the Associated Press said they have no comment. We also reached out to the Archdiocese and the Saints about the Special Master’s recommendation, but they have not yet returned our request for comment.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.