Motion to keep documents secret raises concerns with church sex abuse victims
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Every time Morris Daniels talks about the abuse he says received at the hands of defrocked deacon George Brignac, it’s clearly a painful experience.
“When you’re a victim of this, it never goes away it doesn’t fizzle away,” Daniels said.
Daniels settled with the church in March regarding the abuse at Holy Rosary in the 1980s. Part of the agreement meant keeping the settlement amount secret. But Daniels said he explicitly refused to sign a gag order.
“I told them from the beginning to have my real face, my real name, my real story. I’m not John Doe, I’m Morris Daniels and I’m a victim of Deacon Brignac," he said.
And that’s why Daniels said a new motion filed in connection to a different case infuriates him so much.
The victim -- known only as John Doe -- is suing the Catholic Church and defrocked deacon George Brignac. His attorneys want to have all documents from the Archdiocese relating to settlements, compromises and/or payments of abuse claims dating back to 2002.
However, attorneys with the church claim that those documents contain confidential, private information related both to Brignac and other third parties. Now, church attorneys have filed a motion granting them the right to keep those documents secret.
Legal analyst Bobby Hjortsberg said while this is a standard legal proceeding, it doesn’t look good.
“I can see why people would think the Archdiocese is trying to hide things. The Archdiocese has made settlement agreements with other defendants, and in those agreements there’s been an agreement not to discuss terms, and some things this case is seeking is terms of those settlement agreements,” Hjortsberg said.
Attorneys with the church go on to say that the protective order is not a “blanket” protective order, but provides a framework where either side can designate a document as confidential or challenge it. However, Hjortsberg said if this gets to be a long legal battle, one side is vastly more equipped with time and money to keep it going.
“The defense is going to continue to protect information they have and not turn over any more than they believe they’re entitled to. This is how these cases are going to go, and I imagine the Archdiocese has a great amount of resources and money and time. They can continue to fight this if they want,” Hjortsberg said.
Daniels said he empathizes with the John Doe in this case. He said part of the reason he decided to share his story was because he saw another victim come forward, and the Catholic Church or their attorneys shouldn’t rob others from that experience.
“It gives them strength and lets them know, maybe, they didn’t do anything wrong," Daniels said. “When they stop it from being public knowledge, they’ve won, they’ve swept it under the rug so to speak, and it can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen.”
Attorneys with the Catholic Church did not want to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
John Doe’s attorneys said they do plan to fight the motion and want access to information surrounding other settlements and payments.
A court date is scheduled for July 10th.
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