OLYMPIA, Washington – Decades of files that the Boy Scouts of America compiled on sexual abuse allegations can be used in a lawsuit claiming the organization was ineffective at preventing abuse, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
About 1,000 files, with names redacted, have been given to the lawyers for three men who say their scoutmaster abused them from 1971 to 1983 when they were Boy Scouts. The files are sealed by court order for now but could be made public at trial, plaintiff's attorney Tim Kosnoff said.
The files include court records and news accounts, as well as rumors and tips from parents and others. Names of accusers, their parents and the alleged perpetrators were removed.
The Boy Scouts has kept such files since the group's inception in 1910 but destroyed records when alleged perpetrators either turned 75 or died, plantiff's attorney Mark Honeywell said.
In addition to the 1,000 files from the Washington case, the attorneys have 1,900 files from a separate court case.
A call to the Boy Scouts organization, based in Irving, Texas, was not returned Thursday.
A statement from the organization said it appealed to the high court out of concern that turning over the files could undermine the effectiveness of Scout youth protection programs.
The Boy Scouts organization says it trains boys how to recognize, resist and report abuse, and background checks for new volunteers have been required since 2003.
The national Scouts organization, its local branches and the former scoutmaster, Bruce Phelps, were named as defendants in the sex abuse lawsuit.
Phelps, 53, of Seattle, settled his portion of the lawsuit months ago and admitted to sexual abuse in a deposition, according to the Kosnoff and Honeywell.
Phelps' attorney, Kenneth Kagan, confirmed the settlement but said Phelps did not admit to all of the plaintiffs' allegations.
Seattle police detectives looked into Phelps' case, but no criminal charges were filed, Kagan said. The lawsuit was filed about 20 years after the alleged abuse ended, and the age of the claims played into the police's decision, Kagan said.