Defendant’s Attempt to Keep Trial Evidence Secret Rejected by Oregon Supreme Court

Those in positions of power and wealth fear one thing more than parting with their precious money:  they fear that someone will find out what they did.

Thus, we see repeated requests of courts to hide the the conduct of wrongdoers.  Early in a case, these efforts manifests themselves in requests for protective orders to keep documents and deposition testimony private.  Later, it results in confidential settlement offers and settlement offers made conditional on destruction of evidence gathered in discovery and permanent gag orders.  

But the Boy Scouts of America took it one step further: it attempted to keep confidential information about over 1000 ineligible volunteers that was admitted into evidence at trial.  Le me say that again.  BSA attempted to keep secret evidence that was admitted at trial in a case where the Boy Scouts were ordered to pay both compensatory and punitive damages.  

The trial court held that the plaintiffs could release the information, subject to two conditions:  (1) "redaction of the names of the victims and those who reported alleged abuse"; and (2) a "stay in the effectiveness of this Order pending appellate review."  

The Oregon Supreme Court agreed that exhibits could be made public in the discretion of the trial judge,even though they were originally produced subject to a protective order.  In doing so, the court relied  on Article I, section 10 of the Oregon Constitution 

No court shall be secret, but justice shall be administered, openly and without purchase, completely and without delay, and every man shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation.

The court also held that the trial court-ordered redaction of names of victims and reporters of abuse was appropriate.

The case is Doe v. Corp. of the Presiding Bishop, S058601  (OR. Sup. Ct. June 14, 2012).


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