Former archbishop’s testimony sealed in sex abuse lawsuits
NEW MEXICO–More than 700 pages of deposition testimony by former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez remain sealed after the New Mexico Court of Appeals in Santa Fe ruled the documents should remain partially confidential. The case is now on appeal before the New Mexico Supreme Court in Santa Fe.
In May, the former archbishop and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe appealed two lower court rulings of March and April that released extensively edited versions of the deposition transcript. Sanchez gave the testimony in January 1994 in connection with sex abuse lawsuits against priests.
The state Supreme Court has stayed the orders to release the deposition testimony in order to hear further arguments on whether the transcript, which has not yet been entered as evidence, is a matter of public record.
The archbishop argued that the appeal to the state supreme court would be rendered “moot” and “academic” by the release of the documents. He also argued that release of the testimony would jeopardize the church’s fair trial and privacy rights regarding the sex abuse cases.
The original order to seal the documents was challenged by several Albuquerque media organizations, who argued that because the former archbishop is a public figure, the privacy argument should be rejected.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government argued in a friend of the court brief that there is a First Amendment and common law right of access to deposition testimony, and that depositions filed with the court are part of the public record. (Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Inc. v. New Mexico Court of Appeals; Media Counsel: William Dixon)