A lawyer who represented a man sexually abused by a Boy Scout leader as a child has asked a Ramsey County judge to make public a list of 1,500 scouting leaders accused of misconduct against children.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said the judge should make the names public in “the extraordinary interest of child protection” even though the case in question was settled five years ago.
“By keeping the identity and information regarding sexual abusers secret, Boy Scouts of America is putting kids at risk of being sexually abused,” said Anderson, who is best known for representing sexual abuse victims who have sued the Catholic Church. Anderson pointed to a 2010 case in Oregon where Boy Scouts files were ordered released.
The Boy Scouts of America has refused to release the list publicly, arguing they settled the case with Anderson’s client in 2014 and have provided information from the list to law enforcement. Upon the parties reaching a settlement, the court dismissed the case with prejudice in 2014 and it cannot be reopened, the Boy Scouts contend. Details of the settlement were never made public nor was the identity of the victim, referred to as John Doe 180 in court files.
Garth Unke, an attorney for the Boy Scouts, also argued that the files at issue called the “Volunteer Screening Database” must be maintained “in the strictest confidence in order to encourage candid reporting.”
The files include names of victims, witnesses, alleged perpetrators, and third parties whose privacy rights would be violated if there was a release, he said. And while the Boy Scouts revoke individuals’ registrations based on the files, the court documents said, the organization “does not make an independent determination of the merits of that suspicion.”
Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro said he would take the matter under consideration but grilled Anderson on the legal justification of reopening a settled case. Castro noted that the release of files in Oregon occurred in an active case.
“What you are asking for is something I may not be able to give you,” Castro said.
Castro, who acknowledged that childhood sexual abuse is devastating, questioned whether Anderson was acting on behalf of his client.
“Does your client even know you are doing this?” Castro asked. “You don’t serve as attorney general serving the interests of the public.”
Castro also said he was worried about the privacy of victims, witnesses, bystanders and even alleged perpetrators listed in those files. “Don’t you think the alleged perpetrators have some due process rights?” he asked.
Anderson said he could ensure that any release of names would not include witnesses or victims, noting he was able to protect victims’ identities when the Catholic Church released lists of clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse.
But Unke said another problem is that some of the alleged perpetrators may have been minors at the time, or people who violated Boy Scout rules but didn’t break laws. “At one point in time, people who were gay were included in the … files” or people who were suspected of having an extramarital affair, Unke said.
Finally, Unke argued that Anderson breached the original 2014 settlement. In that case, Anderson was given a confidential copy of the list and corresponding files. He was to return them to the Boy Scouts when the settlement was reached but never did.
After the hearing, Anderson said failing to return the files in 2014 was an “inadvertent” mistake.