Expert: Pa. Supreme Court's decision to 'black out' names is slap at abuse victims

Mark Abrams
December 05, 2018 - 4:00 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A national expert on child abuse says the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision to permanently "black out" the names of 11 men appearing in the final report of the statewide investigating grand jury on clergy sex abuse was a public slap at abuse victims. 

Marci Hamilton is a University of Pennsylvania law professor and founder of the Philadelphia-based Child U.S.A. organization, and says the Supreme Court missed the mark.

"The public deserved to have these names disclosed to it and that compelling interest should have overcome whatever due process rights they were arguing," she said. 

Lawyers for 11 former or current priests had argued since August that their clients' reputations would be destroyed. They contended the 11 never had a chance to refute the allegations in the report.

The court agreed to hold up release of the names pending a hearing and a final ruling.

RELATED: Pa. Supreme Court won't release names of priests implicated in sex abuse report​

Hamilton says there was a proposed solution to allow the 11 to appear before the judge who supervised the grand jury and hear and rule on their claims.

But she says the majority sidestepped the idea.

"This is a first and will, in some ways, hobble grand jury reports in the future," she said. 

Hamilton says bishops where the 11 served still can release the names because they were held in their secret archives. But she concedes they may fear the threat of defamation suits.

"They perhaps fear a defamation lawsuit. But if they have good cause in their files to believe that this person is potentially dangerous to children or ever has been, they should be releasing these names," she added. 

Hamilton says the high court's ruling could reignite the efforts in the new year to re-open the legislative debate on the statute of limitations in abuse cases.

"We more than ever need to have window legislation that would revive the expired civil statutes of limitations because those are the cases where we really learn many, many more facts than we learn even from the grand jury report," she said.