Court clears way for deposition of Archbishop Nienstedt

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has cleared the way for attorneys representing an alleged victim of clergy sexual abuse to question Archbishop John Nienstedt under oath.

In a three-page order issued Wednesday, Chief Judge Edward Cleary denied requests by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona to block depositions of Nienstedt and former vicar general Kevin McDonough.

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Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson has scheduled Nienstedt's deposition for April 2 and McDonough's deposition for April 16. He had scheduled the depositions for March but postponed them because of the appeal.

"We're glad that we can move this thing forward, and that they saw this as the judge did," Anderson said.

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The archdiocese released a statement Wednesday evening. "We appreciate that the Court of Appeals considered our appeal and issued a timely opinion today," it said. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Courts to resolve the litigation."

The Court of Appeals' decision came in a lawsuit brought by a man who claims he was sexually abused as a child by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in 1976 and 1977.

Church lawyers petitioned the Court of Appeals on Feb. 18 to grant an emergency order to block the depositions, ordered by Ramsey County Judge John Van de North. They argued the depositions aren't relevant to the Adamson case and would be used by the victim's attorneys as "a means of harassment, oppression and embarrassment to these witnesses, as well as for the purpose of self-promotion and negative publicity against The Archdiocese."

In December, Van de North ordered the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Winona diocese to release the names of priests on an older list of clergy deemed "credibly accused" by archdiocese officials. Church leaders released those names on Dec. 5.

Van de North also ordered archdiocese officials to turn over the names of all priests accused of child sexual abuse since 2004, regardless of whether church leaders believe the claims to be credible. He said the names could be submitted under seal. Church lawyers challenged that decision in court but failed. They provided the names to the court under seal last month. The Court of Appeals declined to review the judge's order.

The archdiocese had also protested the deposition of the Rev. John Brown, who admitted to MPR News in July that he took a "quick look" at boys' genitals out of "pure stupidity" decades ago. The deposition of Brown, the archdiocese had argued, "is not being sought for purposes of this case, but simply to harass and unduly burden this elderly clergyman who has been retired since 1991 — more than two decades ago."

The Court of Appeals also denied the request to block Brown's deposition, which is scheduled for March 18.