Catholic News Agency
Retired judge hears arguments about NFL emails in clergy abuse case
February 20, 2020
New Orleans, La., Feb 20, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- A retired New Orleans judge heard arguments on Thursday on whether private correspondence between an NFL franchise and the Archdiocese of New Orleans should be made public.
Judge Carolyn Jefferson, a retired judge of the Civil District Court for Orleans, presided over Thursday’s hearing over whether email correspondence between the NFL’s New Orleans Saints franchise and the Archdiocese of New Orleans should be available to the public, the AP reported.
The correspondence relates to a lawsuit against the archdiocese which claims it failed to protect a minor from an alleged sexual abuser in the 1970s and 80s.
In that case, lawyers for the plaintiffs have also alleged that the Saints improperly aided the archdiocese in public relations efforts to conceal information on clergy sex abuse when the archdiocese released its 2018 report on credibly accused clergy.
The Associated Press has filed a motion to have public access to email correspondence between the franchise and the archdiocese. Lawyers for the AP argued on Thursday that concerns over privacy “are minimal” when compared to the magnitude of the case.
Thursday’s hearing would not result in an immediate decision by Judge Jefferson, but rather in a recommendation made to the judge overseeing the sexual abuse lawsuit against the archdiocese, Judge Ellen Hazeur of Orleans Civil District Court.
The archdiocese is being sued by a man who alleged he was sexually abused by George Brignac, a deacon in the archdiocese who was removed from ministry in 1988 after allegations that he sexually abused minors in the 1970s and 1980s. Brignac was listed in the archdiocese’s 2018 report of clergy who had been credibly accused of abuse.
The abuse case of John Doe versus the Catholic Church of New Orleans and Deacon George Brignac was first reported by local news station WVUE. The lawsuit alleges that the archdiocese failed to protect the plaintiff from Brignac.
Brignac was originally accused of raping an altar boy at Holy Rosary School in the archdiocese, which resulted in a settlement with the archdiocese of more than $500,000, the New Orleans Advocate reported. The lawsuit filed in 2018 alleges that he molested another boy at the same school between 1977 and 1982, the Advocate reported.
Lawyers also requested to view email correspondence between the Saints and the archdiocese, alleging that the franchise improperly helped the archdiocese with damage control in the release of its 2018 report.
The franchise responded that it did assist the archdiocese, but did so in the interest of “disclosure” and not “concealment.
On Thursday, a lawyer for the archdiocese said the allegations of colluding with the archdiocese to conceal information are "nothing more than a clear attack on the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church for wrongs of the past that the church has acknowledged,” the AP reported.
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