Friday, May 12, 2006

Diocese Bankrupcty Records To Be Sealed?

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane filed for bankruptcy (Dec. '04) due to some 175 sex abuse claims and now has moved to seal court records. The Spokesman Review opposes the motion and has requested the opportunity to look at claims against the diocese with the claimants' names deleted. U.S. Bankrupcty Judge Patricia Williams will hold a hearing on Monday. Newspaper Seeks Details of Abuse Claims, Seattle Times, May 11, 2006.

Two notes digressing from the question of press action to court records about current controversies --

Access to bankruptcy records generally has also been an issue, since personal bankruptcy filings contain very personal information, often material that could be used for identity theft. See Kristin A. Henderson, Lessons from Bankruptcy Court Public Records: A Conflict of Values for Law Librarians, 23 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 55 (numbers 2-3 2004).

A team of researchers has done very interesting empirical work on consumer bankruptcies in America using thousands of files from several jurisdictions (maintaining research protocols to protect privacy). See Teresa A. Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren & Jay Lawrence Westbrook, As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America (1989); Teresa A. Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Lawrence Westbrook, The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt (2000); Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke (2003).

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