A judge has denied a bid by alleged child-sexual-abuse victims to obtain broader access to documents maintained by the Diocese of Duluth.
In an order filed last week, 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Shaun Floerke ruled that an accuser suing the diocese is entitled only to documents related to abuse that is alleged to have occurred between 1956 and 1974.
The order appears to have little practical effect, as a judge in Ramsey County earlier this year ordered the diocese to turn over all abuse documents from 1978 and earlier.
Attorneys representing Doe 28, an unidentified man suing the diocese over alleged abuse by a priest in the early 1970s, asked Floerke in May to order a full release of abuse documents as part of the discovery process, asserting that information could be relevant to their negligence claims.
Diocese attorneys have maintained that the request for widespread access to documents is overbroad and irrelevant to the case, likening it to a "fishing expedition."
Floerke, in a three-page memorandum attached to his order, agreed with the notion that the diocese's handling of earlier abuse allegations could be relevant to the Doe 28 case. However, he said subsequent cases were irrelevant.
"This court cannot see how the response or actions of the diocese regarding an allegation against a different priest made in 1980 would be relevant to how the diocese responded to reports of abuse in 1972-1974," the judge wrote.
The Doe 28 case is one of four pending against the Diocese of Duluth under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, a state law enacted in 2013 that opened a three-year window for victims of decades-old abuse to file claims.
St. Paul-based Jeff Anderson and Associates, the law firm which has brought most of the suits under the statute, already has received some documents from the diocese. But the firm continues to advocate - through both the courts and the public - for a broader public release of documents detailing the church's handling of abuse allegations.
The diocese in December 2013 voluntarily released the names of all of its former priests who had been "credibly accused" of abuse. However, diocese officials and attorneys have argued that a full release of decades' worth of abuse files is not the appropriate way to move forward.
Any documents turned over to plaintiffs likely will not become public any time soon. Judges in both St. Louis and Ramsey counties have granted protective orders barring attorneys from disclosing information to anyone outside of the case.
The Doe 28 case is set to go to trial in September.