SALEM, Ore. – An attorney for the Boy Scouts of America told the Oregon Supreme Court on Tuesday that 20 years worth of so-called "perversion files" should be kept secret despite a trial judge's order to open them.
Robert Aldisert said in oral arguments that a Multnomah County judge abused his discretion when he ruled to open the files.
That launched an exchange between Aldisert and Justice Robert D. Durham, who questioned whether there was a "logical stopping point" to Aldisert's argument that the judge overstepped his bounds.
"Where is the line?" Durham said. Aldisert said the answer was to treat every case individually.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge John Wittmayer had ruled the Boy Scouts' ineligible volunteer files, from 1965 to 1985, could be used in court, and in June, he ruled that they should be opened to the public. The Boy Scouts of America appealed and the files have remained sealed pending the legal review.
The files keep track of suspected pedophiles and others who violate the Boy Scouts of America's rules in an effort to keep them from volunteering again.
The circuit court said 1,247 files could be released, of which more than 1,000 involve allegations of child abuse. The only other time the documents are believed to have been presented at a trial was in the 1980s in Virginia.
A lawyer for news organizations suing to release the records, including The Associated Press, argued the judge acted correctly. Charles Hinkle said anything introduced in court should be considered a public record.
"Once something is admitted into evidence, that becomes part of the public's business," Hinkle said.
The news organizations intervened on behalf of six plaintiffs, who sued the Boy Scouts, the organization's Cascade Pacific Council and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for sex abuse they suffered by an assistant Scoutmaster in the 1980s.
The media organizations filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court that argued for the release of the files without a review and asked for the files in unredacted form.
The Boy Scouts also petitioned the state Supreme Court, challenging the release of the files. The Scouts argue that opening the files could unfairly affect those who are named in the files but were never convicted of abuse, as well as prejudice potential jurors in future trials. They face at least two more lawsuits.
The Supreme Court combined the media and Boy Scouts petitions.
A coalition of crime-victim advocates and abuse survivors networks argued in a brief that the release of the files will help society recognize and prevent abuse, but it argued against the media companies' request to include the names of the alleged victims.
A trade association that represents major multinationals including Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co. has argued in a brief that the court should rule for the Boy Scouts. A ruling against them, the association argues, would leave no judicial protection of trade secrets and make companies afraid to do business in Oregon.
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