Minnesota attorney general urges release of Boy Scouts' Ineligible Volunteer Files
Legal brief recommends appointing a special master be appointed to review each file and release appropriate information in an effort to balance the public interest with the disclosure of 'credible' allegations.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has joined a legal movement that seeks to force the Boy Scouts of America to release a portion of its Ineligible Volunteer Files, which it had been keeping for decades and dubbed the "Perversion Files."
Ellison filed a "friend of the court" brief on Friday, Sept. 6, in Ramsey County District Court recommending that a special master be appointed to "review each file and apply objective criteria to identify credible allegations that are in the public interest to unseal.”
“I support releasing these files because the public has a right to know about credible allegations about acts of child sexual abuse,” Ellison said. “When credible allegations are disclosed, it also provides survivors with a sense of healing and justice and encourages more survivors to come forward, all of which are in the public interest. At the same time, the court can also serve the public interest by ensuring that no baseless or unfounded accusations are released, particularly any that may have been made simply on the basis of the accused’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a balance I am confident the court can strike.”
In 2012, an Oregon court released reports from the Perversion Files of alleged child sexual abuse by more than 1,200 scout leaders. In the case of John Doe 180 v. The National Boy Scouts of America Foundation, Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America, River Hills United Methodist Church in Dakota County State of Minnesota and former scoutmaster Peter Stibal, the Boy Scouts produced a separate list of 1,500 scout leaders accused of misconduct against children and the corresponding Perversion Files, but the list and files were sealed by court order when the case was settled in 2014. Plaintiff John Doe 180 is now seeking permission to unseal the files and release them to the public. Other similar cases are pending in other states, as well.
In the brief, Ellison argues that there is a “substantial public interest in disclosure of information documenting sexual abuse within trusted youth organizations like the Boy Scouts” and “the public interest in disclosure … must be balanced against fairness and privacy concerns.”
Among the criteria that Ellison recommends the special master apply in reviewing each file for possible unsealing are: (1) the nature of the allegation; (2) the outcome of any police investigation or prosecution; (3) the results of any internal investigation; (4) whether the file contains admissions from an accused offender; (5) whether the file contains other information tending to corroborate the allegation; and (6) whether the allegation has circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness.
At the same time, Ellison argues in the brief that there "is no public interest in learning the identity of victims or witnesses, so such information should remain sealed.”