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Diocese Ordered to Hand Over Records for Sex-Abuse Probe

February 09, 2003|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — An Arizona state appeals court has ordered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix to turn over nearly 2,300 records and documents to a grand jury investigating sexual abuse allegations against clergy.

A three-judge panel on Friday upheld an earlier decision by Judge Eddward Ballinger, who examined about 3,500 documents in the case.

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

The diocese could appeal. A diocese attorney and a church spokeswoman didn't return calls seeking comment.

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 Dec. 31 that the stricter standards applied to the church files because the grand jury is investigating criminal matters. Church attorneys argued the broader privileges should apply.

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