Records in L.A. Priest Sex-Abuse Lawsuits to Remain Secret Until Trial

Many of the records in lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will remain secret before trial, a judge has ruled.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley J. Fromholtz on Wednesday ordered lawyers not to disclose general background information and medical and financial records of individual plaintiffs and defendants.

Anthony M. De Marco, one of the lawyers suing the archdiocese, argued in court Wednesday that the records should be disclosed.

Information contained in them could indicate that individual church officials failed to protect against dangerous priests, and documents that the church has so far surrendered are incomplete, De Marco said.

Church lawyers said they would not release information that is privileged under state law and the Constitution, such as data about psychiatric treatment.

The first three of 560 sexual abuse lawsuits are scheduled to go to trial in November.

Plaintiffs alleged the church sent pedophile priests off to treatment, then returned them to ministry without warning parishioners or alerting authorities.

Church officials said they originally thought the priests could be cured through treatment.

Most of the litigation has been frozen for the past 3 1/2 years as parties tried to negotiate a settlement, similar to the record $100-million pact the Diocese of Orange reached with its accusers in 2005.