Confidentiality, a mainstay in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s outreach to clergy sexual abuse victims, received legal support Thursday, Jan. 14, when Chief Judge Susan V. Kelley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied a motion by Jeff Anderson and Associates that, if it had been granted, would have compelled the archdiocese to produce unredacted documents and proof of claims forms relevant to the archdiocese’s latest motions for summary judgment.

Attorney Michael Finnegan of Jeff Anderson and Associates, representing 350 claimants, told the court the unredacted documents they were seeking were “very limited, very specific, and also very simple for the archdiocese to produce because they already have these documents and have them readily available to produce….”

Addressing attorney Frank LoCoco, representing the archdiocese, Kelley asked, “Why not produce to them – under some sort of very strict confidential way so that they are able to defend themselves on these claim objections – these documents in an unredacted form?”

“Remember that the redactions were abuse survivors and family members,” he replied. “Many of these abuse survivors have never wanted the fact that they were abused known or their identities known. Putting the proofs of claim aside, when they come to the archdiocese, they’re given a promise of confidentiality.”

LoCoco presented a scenario in which, if names were unredacted, those who had wished to remain anonymous would be “outed” to spouses, children and other family members.

“They are trying to find a needle in a haystack by not caring about protecting the confidences that were placed in the archdiocese, and frankly, the promises the archdiocese made and the promises the parties in this case and the court made to keep these people’s identities confidential,” he said of the Anderson motion. “It’s not legally right; it’s not morally right and it doesn’t impact their ability to oppose our summary judgment motions.”

Noting that she was “concerned about the scenario playing out” that LoCoco described, Kelley said, “That’s why we were so careful and everyone worked together and put these confidentiality procedures in this case.” 

While saying she had no regrets in upholding those procedures, Kelley said she was “concerned that the claimants aren’t able to prove their case without knowing who else might have made these reports to the archdiocese.”

Following another exchange by Finnegan and LoCoco on claimants’ rights versus protecting victims’ confidentiality, respectively, Kelley denied the Anderson and Associates’ motion, saying she had “to weigh what I think is the fairness and the rights of these people and their confidentiality against the rights of the claimants.”  

“There are people that didn’t even file a claim because they don’t want to be contacted. They don’t want to,” she said. “They don’t want to deal with this. They don’t want to be part of this. I don’t want them contacted.”

Kelley said she would look at proofs of claims from those who had agreed “to come forward in this confidential way.” 

“If I can find evidence in the claims filed by folks that are not your (Anderson’s) clients, we’re going to reconvene and talk about it. But not these other documents,” she said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, attorneys will argue the insurance litigation settlement dispute before Kelley, but, she said, a decision regarding it would not be made that day.

On Wednesday, March 4, she will take up the matter of claims objections.