Judge allows archdiocese public nuisance suit to move forward

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A Ramsey County judge has allowed to go forward a lawsuit that alleges the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis created a public nuisance by failing to disclose information about priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

In an order today (posted below), Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North denied a motion by the archdiocese to dismiss the public nuisance claim.

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The ruling is unprecedented, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented victims of clergy sexual abuse since the 1980s.

Anderson's past efforts to persuade judges that the archdiocese's handling of clergy abuse allegations puts children at risk and creates a public nuisance have failed.

He said he will next seek to question Archbishop John Nienstedt and other top Catholic Church officials under oath. He will also request internal archdiocese documents about abusive priests as part of a pending case brought by a man who says he was abused as a child by the Rev. Tom Adamson.

Van de North's ruling comes a week after the judge issued another unprecedented order forcing the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona to disclose the names of accused priests on previously sealed lists. The archdiocese released the names of 34 priests last week, and the Diocese of Winona is expected to release its list of 13 priests Monday.

Anderson has similar nuisance claims pending against St. John's Abbey and the dioceses of New Ulm, Crookston and Duluth.

However, Van de North threw out the plaintiff's claim that the dioceses had created a private nuisance.

Church attorneys had asked Van de North to dismiss both the public and private nuisance claims.

In a statement released Tuesday, the archdiocese said it was "very pleased" by the ruling.

"Our concerns and objections have been recognized by Judge Van de North," the statement said. "This is a significant setback for Jeff Anderson and his clients."

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