Thursday, March 08, 2012

Court Sorts Out Privilege Claims In Discovery of Diocese Documents

Thopsey v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 448 (CT Super. Ct., Feb. 15, 2012), involves a dispute over plaintiff's discovery of certain documents in a suit against the Bridgeport Roman Catholic diocese growing our of alleged sexual abuse of plaintiff by a priest, John Castaldo. Plaintiff sought various documents relating to what the diocese knew about the sexual proclivities of Castaldo. The court concluded that 7 of the documents at issue in some fashion seek religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort, and are therefore protected from disclosure by a state statute protecting confidential communications with members of the clergy. The court found that a number of documents at issue concern the internal management of the diocese and not the claim of tortious conduct. Finally, as to 14 other documents, the court holds that they are not protected by a "free exercise" privilege:
Certainly, the Catholic Church finds the sexual abuse of children to be wrongful. The contribution toward, condoning or causation of such activity in no way comports with the tenets or practices of Catholicism. Government interference with the practices of the Catholic faith are not implicated in this discovery matter. Therefore, the court does not find that invocation of the free exercise privilege is separately warranted as to these 14 documents in light of the allegations of the complaint.