California Supreme Court denies Scouts' bid to halt files' release
The California Supreme Court has refused to bar the release of confidential files detailing allegations of child sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts since 1991.
The court’s decision clears the way for the Scouts to hand over two decades worth of files to attorneys representing a former Scout who was molested by a volunteer leader in 2007, when the plaintiff was 13.
Early last year, a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge ordered the files turned over, a decision upheld in December by a state appellate court. The Scouts then petitioned the Supreme Court, which denied its bid for a stay Thursday.
The lawsuit contends that the files will expose a "culture of hidden sexual abuse," as well as the organization's failure to warn boys and their parents of abusive leaders.
It also alleges that a local Scout official tried to keep the plaintiff's mother from reporting the crime to police, and cited that action as an example of the group’s efforts to conceal abuse.
The volunteer Scout leader later was convicted of felony child endangerment.
The Boy Scouts of America denies the lawsuit’s allegations and contends that the records must remain confidential to protect the privacy of victims, those who report abuse and those wrongly accused.
Known in Scouting as the "perversion files," the records have been kept for nearly a century. In October, more than 1,200 of the files from 1965 to 1985 were made public by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Times has published a searchable database of files from 1960 to 1991, along with summary information on others as recent as 2005.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, noted that the files at issue in the Santa Barbara lawsuit will not be made public unless they are later admitted as evidence in the case.
"The BSA will comply fully with the order, but maintains that the files are not relevant to this suit and denies the claims raised in the suit," he said, adding that current Scouts policy requires all suspected abuse to be reported to police.
Timothy Hale, the family’s lawyer in the Santa Barbara lawsuit, called the Supreme Court decision "a critical win for the safety of children." But he urged the Scouts to immediately turn files over to law enforcement and publicly identify alleged abusers.
"Every day BSA fails to reverse its decades of secrecy, more children are put at risk to be abused by men that only BSA knows pose a risk to children," Hale said.
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– Kim Christensen