Court Orders Phoenix Diocese to Turn over Files in Abuse Scandal

By Joseph A. Reaves
The Arizona Republic
Downloaded February 8, 2003


The state Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix must turn over to a grand jury nearly 2,300 records and documents.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel upholds an earlier decision by Judge Eddward Ballinger of the Maricopa County Superior Court, who examined about 3,500 documents and decided that most of them should be handed over.

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"The church has repeatedly indicated it wants to cooperate," said County Attorney Rick Romley. "We ask that they turn over the documents as quickly as possible without further appeals."

The diocese could appeal to the state Supreme Court. Calls to diocesan attorney Jim Belanger and church spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes were unreturned Friday.

Romley and the diocese have been at odds for months about the level of cooperation with a grand jury investigating sexual abuse allegations by church employees.

Church attorneys claim they are cooperating fully. Romley insists they are stalling.

The dispute centers on client-attorney privilege.

In 1994, the Arizona Legislature granted greater client-attorney privileges to corporations facing civil lawsuits. Lawmakers did not apply those broader privileges to criminal matters.

Ballinger ruled on New Year's Eve that the stricter standards applied to the church files, as the grand jury is investigating criminal matters. Church attorneys argued that the broader privileges should apply.

In Friday's decision, Appeals Court Judge Patrick Irvine said the Legislature was clear when it changed the law for civil cases and purposefully allowed for tighter restrictions.

Also Friday, sentencing was delayed until March 5 for former Valley priest John Maurice Giandelone. He pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy more than two decades ago and is cooperating with a grand jury investigation how the Phoenix Diocese handled allegations of sexual misconduct.


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