An LA judge has dismissed a "nuisance" suit filed by a Camarillo man that sought to force California's Catholic bishops to open their files on priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.
The April 17 decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court ruled that five of the eight “instances of disclosure or non-disclosure” alleged by plaintiff Thomas Emens “could not show the existence of a nuisance.” The judge also found that the five of them “were an attack on the right of free speech.”
The other three instances alleged were left open to further proceedings.
“The Archdiocese, the California Catholic Conference and other California dioceses are considering whether to appeal her decision on those three instances,” the Archdiocese said.
Emens had filed the suit in 2018, claiming that California’s Catholic bishops had conspired to hide abuser priests and move them to other parishes. Emens himself alleged that he had been abused in the late 1970s in Orange County by a priest who had moved from Chicago.
The nuisance lawsuit filed by national sex abuse litigator Jeff Anderson on behalf of Emens alleges that the Church caused a dangerous condition affecting public safety by disclosing selective information about priests accused of sexual abuse and not disclosing other information.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles explained that it responded with a “joint Anti-SLAPP motion asserting that they have a right of free speech, and in any event have not engaged in the alleged activities and have actively worked to address and protect victims-survivors.”
In a statement issued on behalf of the state's bishops, the California Catholic Conference said the ruling vindicated the Church's position and efforts to protect children and hold abusers accountable.
“The failures of the Church to address the issue of abuse in the past caused great harm and the trust in the Church has been broken,” said the CCC in an April 29 statement. “Victim-survivors such as Mr. Emens are rightfully angry for the harm that was inflicted by members of the Church in the past.”
“That is why,” the statement continued, “the Catholic Church in California has taken responsibility not just in words but in action and will continue to take the necessary steps to support victim-survivors, cooperate with law enforcement and help make our parishes, schools and ministries safe places for all.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles also issued a statement April 29 reaffirming its “long-standing commitment to supporting victims of abuse, the protection of children and the vulnerable, and the prevention of abuse and misconduct in our parishes, schools and ministries.”