924 P.2d 273 (N.M.App. 1996), 16296, Does I through III v. Roman Catholic Church of Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Inc.
|Citation:||924 P.2d 273, 122 N.M. 307, 1996 -NMCA- 94|
|Party Name:||JOHN DOES I THROUGH III, James Doe, on behalf of John Doe II, and Jane Doe, on behalf of John Doe II, Plaintiffs, v. ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF the ARCHDIOCESE OF SANTA FE, INC., a New Mexico corporation, Defendant-Appellant and Jason E. Sigler a/k/a Jay B. Sigler, Bishop Arthur Tafoya and Clarence Galli, Defendants, and The Albuquerque Journal, Inc.|
|Attorney:||Robert H. Clark, Arthur O. Beach, Sean Olivas, Keleher & McLeod, P.A., Albuquerque, Karen C. Kennedy, Karen Kennedy & Associates, Albuquerque, for Appellant Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Inc. William S. Dixon, Charles K. Purcell, Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A., ...|
|Judge Panel:||APODACA, C.J., concurs.|
|Case Date:||August 01, 1996|
|Court:||Court of Appeals of New Mexico|
Certiorari Denied Sept. 17, 1996.
¶1 This appeal arises out of litigation against the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Inc. (the Archdiocese) brought by several persons who alleged that they had been sexually abused by members of the Roman Catholic clergy. Former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez (the Archbishop), who was not accused of such abuse, was deposed during the litigation. Two newspapers and a television station (the Appellees) seek disclosure of portions of the deposition. Before the deposition the Bernalillo County District Court entered a protective order (the Protective Order) forbidding release of the videotape or transcript of the deposition without prior court approval. After the case was settled, the district court modified the Protective Order at the request of the Appellees. The modified order (the Disclosure Order) directed the court reporter for the deposition to release extensive portions of the transcript and videotape of the deposition (the Disclosed Testimony) to any members of the media who made satisfactory payment arrangements with the reporter. The Archdiocese and the Archbishop (the Appellants) appeal from the Disclosure Order.
¶2 Because one of the plaintiffs' attorneys has expressed the intention to release publicly the Disclosed Testimony if not prohibited from doing so by a court order, we need not decide whether the district court could order the court reporter to release the Disclosed Testimony to the media. Indeed, as explained below, essentially the only issue we need resolve is whether the district court could grant the Appellees standing to challenge the Protective Order. We hold that the district court had that authority. We affirm the Disclosure Order to the extent that it sets aside the Protective Order's prohibition on release of the Disclosed Testimony.
¶3 Allegations of sexual abuse by priests have received a great deal of attention in both the media and courtrooms of New Mexico. According to counsel for the Archdiocese at oral argument, approximately 150 sexual-abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese, of which 50 or so are still pending. Judicial restrictions on publicity regarding the litigation were first imposed on March 26, 1993. On that date District Judge Susan Conway entered orders in several lawsuits, including the one before us on appeal, which severely limited disclosure of materials obtained pursuant to discovery unless such disclosure was authorized by a later court order. The order recited several reasons for
[122 N.M. 309] the limitations, including the defendants' interest in a fair trial, the need to conduct settlement negotiations free of the coercion that could arise from threats to disclose information, and the privacy interests of litigants and third parties.
¶4 After he was noticed for a videotaped deposition to be conducted on January 12, 1994, the Archbishop moved for further protection. His motion requested that the deposition be taken at a confidential location within a half-day's airplane travel from Albuquerque, that inquiry be prohibited with respect to certain subject matter, and that the court forbid disclosure of the contents or substance of his testimony and of the time and place of the deposition. District Judge Philip Ashby heard the motion on January 5, 1994. He then prepared an order, and on January 12 he conducted a hearing to consider objections to the proposed order.
¶5 At the hearing William Dixon, the attorney for The Albuquerque Journal, one of the Appellees, argued that there were insufficient grounds for a protective order limiting disclosure of the Archbishop's deposition. Judge Ashby responded:
I can understand your concerns. I'm going to enter the order as proposed. There are matters which may or may not come up in this deposition, which I feel might very seriously affect a fair trial. I'm not primarily concerned with the privacy of Archbishop Sanchez, because he is a public figure, but I do feel strongly that the fair trial rights of all the parties may be affected in this case. I really think your motion is premature. If after the deposition is taken and the Court is then--can be made aware of what was in the deposition, if you or any other counsel on behalf of any media wants to move at that time to open the deposition, I will hear the arguments at that time, Mr. Dixon, but at this time I'm denying your motion which I consider to be a motion filed formally on behalf of the Albuquerque Journal.
¶6 The order imposed some restrictions on the scope of the deposition, prohibited disclosure of the location of the deposition, and stated:
The transcript of the deposition will be sealed, and the original of the videotapes will be maintained privately by counsel for the party taking the deposition, and will not be released to any other third person or organization without prior order of the Court. All provisions of the previous order regarding dis[s]emination of information obtained in discovery will remain in effect and pertain to this deposition.
¶7 On April 4, 1994, after completion of the deposition, The New Mexico Tribune Company, another of the Appellees, moved to vacate or modify the protective orders of March 26, 1993 and January 12, 1994. It requested alternatively (1) permitting the litigants or their counsel to disseminate immediately the transcript and videotape of the Archbishop's deposition, (2) permitting such dissemination immediately upon the use of any part of the deposition in court, or (3) permitting such dissemination as soon as the case was resolved at trial or by settlement. The motion recited that counsel for the defendants did not consent to the motion and that counsel for the plaintiffs neither consented to nor opposed the motion.
¶8 Three days later The Albuquerque Journal moved to intervene and moved for an order (1) vacating the prior protective orders, (2) requiring that the transcript of the Archbishop's deposition be filed with the court clerk and be available to the public, and (3) permitting release of the deposition by the parties. As with the Tribune's motion, the motion recited that counsel for the defendants did not consent to the motion and that counsel for the plaintiffs neither consented to nor opposed the motion.
¶9 District Judge Conway conducted a hearing on the motion on May 10, 1994. After reviewing the depositions she issued a letter opinion on October 5, 1994. The opinion listed extensive portions of the deposition that should be disclosed. It also requested additional information, apparently to determine whether further disclosures would violate privacy interests of litigants and third parties. KOB-TV, Inc., the third Appellee, then moved to intervene, seeking the same access to the deposition testimony as the other movants. The district court issued an
[122 N.M. 310] additional letter opinion on January 17, 1995 and an addendum to that letter on the following day. The district court proceedings concluded with a presentment hearing on March 8 and entry of an order on March 14, 1995. As previously stated, the order directed the official court reporter to provide the Disclosed Testimony to the movants. Other members of the media could make arrangements with the court reporter to obtain the same materials. The court stayed its order until March 28, 1995 to permit the Archdiocese and the Archbishop to appeal.
¶10 The Archdiocese and Archbishop filed their notice of appeal from the Disclosure Order on March 23, 1995. They simultaneously filed a motion to stay the Disclosure Order until determination of the merits of their appeal. This Court denied the motion for such a stay but extended the stay until April 19 to permit the Appellants to seek review by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court extended the stay, and on July 12, 1995 it ordered that the Disclosure Order be stayed pending completion of the appeal. While the matter was pending before it, the Supreme Court directed the parties to file briefs on several issues, including whether the Appellees had standing to challenge the Protective Order when none of the parties had objected to the order. In support of their brief addressing the standing issue, the Appellees submitted an affidavit of Merit Bennett, who had represented several of the plaintiffs in the...
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